Child Who Lost Both Parents Launches A ‘Smile Experiment’

Despite experiencing a terrible loss, Jaden Hayes is determined to bring happiness to the world. 

Posted in , Nov 1, 2016

Jaden Hayes making people smile

Sometimes all it takes is a smile to brighten someone’s day. That’s what Jaden Hayes is counting on.

The young boy from Savannah, Georgia recently lost both of his parents – his father died two years ago and, last year, his mother passed away unexpectedly in her sleep. Hayes recognized the sadness and grief his family was experiencing and wanted to do something to bring them all joy.

That’s how the “Smile Experiment” was born.

Hayes, who now lives with his aunt and legal guardian Barbara DiCola, asked DiCola to buy toys, trinkets and candies for him to pass out to strangers in downtown Savannah.

"It's like sheer joy came out of this child," Barbara told CBS News. "And the more people that he made smile, the more this light shone."

Hayes has already collected over 500 smiles but his goal is much higher.

"I'm counting on it to be 33,000," he said.

His campaign has sparked a hashtag on social media and gained the young boy a following on Facebook and Instagram. 



Here we go again! #thesmileexperiment #payitForward #WTOC

A photo posted by Tasha Compton (@mstashers) on


DiCola says Hayes still misses his parents but he’s found new purpose in bringing a bit of sunshine back into the world and he hopes others will pay it forward.

“We are all amazed at the strength he has, and it filters through,” DiCola told TODAY. “We all smile a lot more than we would be at this point. You see him smile, and you can't help it. You gotta smile.” 


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