Replicas of some of those beads, along with a few newly designed beads, will fly with space shuttle Atlantis when it lifts off Friday afternoon from Kennedy Space Center.
Sydney's father, Jamie Newton, works as a contractor at Marshall Space Flight Center. When he approached NASA about the beads going into space, the agency loved his idea and processed it quickly in order to make the flight. NASA awarded 8 ounces of payload space to Beads of Courage - the nonprofit group that gives the beads to children with serious illnesses like Sydney. On Friday, 17 beads will be flown as one 8-ounce unit.
"Huntsville is in charge of payload, so if it can happen anywhere, it can happen here," said Sydney's mother, Cynthia Newton.
Once NASA approved the payload, Beads of Courage started a contest for bead-makers around the world. From more than 50 entries, 17 space-themed beads were selected to fly.
"It's another way of encouraging these kids," Jamie Newton said. "We want to give these children courage to get through this and help them reach beyond the Earth and stars.
"We can encourage these kids to fight so they can grow up to be the next astronaut and engineer," he said.
The Newtons left Tuesday for Kennedy Space Center. NASA officials invited them to watch the Atlantis launch as a family.
Sydney got her beads six months ago when she was at Birmingham's Children's Hospital undergoing treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma - a type of cancer often found in children. Doctors discovered a tumor behind her eye last May.
Each bead is different and symbolizes a hurdle, a struggle or a passed milestone in a child's journey with the illness.
"It's something to show for all she's been through," Cynthia Newton said. "She hangs it on her IV pole."
The memorabilia associated with beating cancer - a bag of hair, an IV pole, a radiation mask - are not things the Newtons want to frame on a wall in their Athens home.
A necklace comprised of colorful beads symbolic of every part of Sydney's treatment is something tangible to look at, to hold and to remember the battle.
"It tells an 11-month story," Cynthia Newton said. "It says, 'Look what I did.'"
Sydney can give you details about every bead on her necklace, when she got it and why.
Red beads represent blood procedures. A bead shaped like a dog represents the therapy dogs Sydney loved at the hospital. Bumpy beads are for getting over something difficult. The bead with a face and crazy hair is for Sydney's hair falling out. Glow-in-the-dark beads represent her radiation treatments. And the purple heart bead represents her finishing treatment.
Sydney's favorite is a cross between the purple heart bead and the dog bead. The bead shaped like a dog was made especially for Sydney. The maker of the bead designed a similar bead to be flown on Atlantis, and when Sydney said it was her favorite of the 17, she received a replica called the Love Puppy from the bead's designer.
It's been a long year for the Newtons, but so far things are improving for 2010.
Sydney's color is improving; her smile is flashing bright again, and even her 9-year-old brother Dawson can tell she's getting better by the way she picks on him. Laughter fills the Newton house, along with the sound of feet running around the hardwood floor - a sound Sydney's parents said they treasure after a year of her being weak, tired and sick.
On May 28, Sydney will return to Birmingham for an MRI with her beaded necklace around her neck. The Newtons say they expect Sydney to be deemed cancer free.