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A Different Kind of Medicine

Bee Brave Buddies comfort children with cancer
A illustrated book lying on a wooden table

A book about the Bee Brave Buddies, published in August, is also given to children undergoing cancer treatments.


t is hard to imagine what it must be like for a child to undergo cancer treatment, but close to 300,000 children worldwide face that incomprehensible reality every year.

Rosanna Bernstein of Surfside, Florida, has a good idea of what those children endure. Healthy and in remission from leukemia since 2000, she has created Bee Brave Buddies, 18-inch-tall dolls that represent superheroes and help children cope with their cancer treatment.

“I was very ill for about three years, but then I was enrolled in a clinical trial at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the drug saved my life. It was then I knew I had to give back,” Bernstein said. “As a child, I adored drawing and making fanciful outfits for my dolls, so it was natural that I would want to do something similar for kids.”

She drew on her love for fabric and design and created the three original Bee Brave Buddies: Buddy Brave, a superhero doll for boys who is rumored to have magical powers; his twin sister, Bestie Brave, a superhero doll for girls, meant to be a new best friend; and Catie Cuddles, a cuddly doll dressed in fancy lace. They are designed to be a gentle tool to help children understand what they can expect from their treatments — including losing their hair, which is why all the dolls are bald. They also come in different skin tones.

Already, the dolls have been distributed to hospitals and outpatient chemotherapy centers around the world. Earlier this year, alex’s place at Sylvester, the Department of Pediatrics at the Miller School and Holtz Children’s Hospital, part of the Jackson Health System, received a delivery of 50 new dolls. Bee Brave Buddies, a nonprofit group, is able to provide the dolls free of charge, thanks to donations from the community.

In August, Bernstein published a book about the adventures of the Bee Brave Buddies. She says one of the best compliments she received was when the mother of a young cancer patient told her how much her daughter loved her doll, saying “not all medicine comes in a bottle.”

FALL 2023