After losing both parents, 6-year-old boy embarks on mission to make everyone smile

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Credit: Tasha Compton

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Meet Jaden Hayes. He’s 6 years old and an orphan.

Jaden’s father died when he was only 4 years old. Then, last month, his mom died unexpectedly in her sleep.

“I tried and I tried and I tried to get her awake — I couldn’t,” Jaden told the CBS Evening News.

Jaden recently told his aunt, and now guardian, that he was tired of seeing everyone sad all the time.

“I was getting him ready for bed, tucking him in, and he says ‘Auntie, I’m so tired of everybody with frowny faces. We need to make people smile,’” Jaden’s aunt Barbara DiCola told WSB-TV.

Credit: Tasha Compton

Jaden asked his aunt to buy several small toys and bring them to downtown Savannah so he could give them to strangers. He searched for people who were not smiling and handed them a gift.

While his goal is to make everyone smile, Jaden admits he is still hurting.

“But I’m still sad my mom died,” he told the CBS Evening News.

Jaden’s aunt said “The Smile Experiment” is helping him find a new purpose.

“I don’t know how his little brain is processing it, but I think this all is helping in his healing process,” Dicola told TODAY.

“It’s like sheer joy came out of this child,” DiCola told the CBS Evening News. “And the more people that he made smile, the more this light shone.”

So far, Jaden has counted over 500 smiles. His goal is to collect 33,000 smiles. After his story was featured on Friday’s episode of the CBS Evening News, we think he may have already surpassed his goal.

DiCola’s daughter, Tasha Compton, has been sharing photos of #thesmileexperiment on Instagram:

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#thesmileexperiment #payitForward #WTOC

A post shared by Tasha Stapleton (@mstashers) on

View this post on Instagram

#thesmileexperiment #payitForward #WTOC

A post shared by Tasha Stapleton (@mstashers) on

1 Comment

  • Pamela K

    This is truly a amazing young man.. As he struggles with the death of both parents at a very young age he is concerned about others. He wants to make people smile and I imagine this helps him in his own healing process.. Good for him and for his Aunt for giving him the little gifts to hand out.. These are the feel good stories that we need to read and hear about.. not the likes of some reality show family which I am sure most normal folks are very tired of hearing about and seeing news feed on their every move… Thanks you Jaden for putting others and their feelings above your own….

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