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Children's Wisconsin Child Advocacy Center Brave Bracelets Kesslers Diamonds

A piece of our heart: How a simple bracelet can help kids recover from trauma

“Every child I see, leaves this building with a piece of my heart,” said Sara Haberlein, APNP, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Wisconsin. Sara recalls seeing two children who presented extremely malnourished and who had experienced severe neglect and physical abuse.

During the course of her medical evaluation, she knew that this young boy needed to go to the hospital right away. 

Sara is one of the medical providers at Children’s Wisconsin that specializes in abuse evaluations at the Child Advocacy Center. She knew the boy’s road to recovery both physically and mentally would be long. She wished there was something he could have with him to remind him of his strength and to provide him hope along this journey.

“I sought to develop something to promote hope to the kids we see. Something that would make a positive impact not only on that day, but all the days in their future,” said Sara.

She jotted down, “Your brave is bigger than you think” on a post-it note. On some of her hardest days in the years to come, she caught herself looking at the note for inspiration. “I knew if it helped me, it had the potential to help others.”

Providing a safe space for abused kids

Children’s Wisconsin has one of the largest networks of Child Advocacy Centers in the country, with nine centers located throughout the state, as well as a hospital-based team in Milwaukee. The team serves about 7,000 children per year. 

The Child Advocacy Center is a safe place for children who may have been maltreated. The center hosts medical providers and a team of specially trained professionals, including advocates, interviewers and mental health providers. This team works together to wrap services around the patient and their family. Children are seen for a variety of concerns including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, concerns of drug exposure as well as children entering the foster care system.

They often see children and families in their worst moment and work to have them leave in a better place and on the road to recovery.

Sara has been at the Child Advocacy Center for about seven years. She was first introduced to the specialty during graduate school when she was assigned to the site for her clinical placement.

She said she immediately knew this work was what she was meant to do.

“I wanted to make sure kids know it is hard to face the trauma and that what they did here was amazing and courageous. We know that it is not over when they leave our doors. I needed to create something to stay with them to remind him or her of how brave they are. Something that they can look at along their healing journey, in any moment they need to and be reminded of their power and that you can do it, you did it before, you can do it again.”

A reminder on their healing journey

Sara and her team brought the idea to Children’s Wisconsin Foundation and they partnered with Kesslers Diamonds who helped make Sara’s dream of the Brave Bracelet come true. Brave Bracelets are now provided to patients seen by the Child Advocacy and Protective Services team to serve as a reminder that they are brave and supported.

To date, the staff at the Child Advocacy Centers have given Brave Bracelets to about 75 children. 

"It’s a rare, feel-good moment to see the kids’ eyes light up,” said Sara. “It’s a special thing.”

One of the children Sara saw recently was hiding behind the table in the exam room, and kept saying, “I’m scared, I’m scared.”

After her medical evaluation, Sara told the child, “You know, I have just the right thing to help you.”

She brought him the bracelet with the one word, “Brave” engraved on a silver band. She told him, “This is what you can use when you’re feeling scared. You’ve gotten through everything today, it was really hard, and you did so good. You’re brave, and this is going to help you remember that. Anytime you’re feeling scared, you look down at your wrist, you see that, and know you can do this.”

He looked up at her, smiled and with great relief said, “Okay.”

Help support Brave Bracelets

Children’s Wisconsin is incredibly grateful for the dedicated community partners who ensure we have the resources to help kids and families today to work toward a brighter tomorrow — one where no child is abused.

If you’d like to make a donation to support the Brave Bracelets program, please go to and under “Direct my gift to” scroll down, choose “other” and type “Child Advocacy Centers” in the form field. For questions, please call the Children’s Wisconsin Foundation at (414) 266-6100.