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Parents' Deaths Inspire Little Boy to Spread Happiness

The Short of It

After both of his parents died, 6-year-old Jaden Hayes was tired of sadness and frowns, so the little boy has dedicated himself to making people smile.

The Lowdown

Two years ago, the Georgia first-grader lost his father, and two weeks ago his mother died unexpectedly in her sleep.

"After attending a funeral and a viewing, and seeing all these grownups walking around and nobody was smiling, he just got tired of people with sad, frowny faces," Barbara DiCola, his mother's sister told "He really wanted to make people smile, and so asked me how we could make people do that."

His aunt told the boy that smiling first is the best way to make someone smile, but that it doesn't always work. "So he says, 'Well, what if you give them a toy?'" she said.

So last week, Jaden and his aunt took bags of small toys and trinkets they bought in the party supply aisle at Wal-Mart to downtown Savannah, Ga., to hand out to people who needed some cheer. They approached at least 275 people during two trips.

"He would sit back, and he'd say, 'They're not smiling, Auntie. They need a (rubber) duckie and these beads,'" she said.

Receiving the small gifts had the intended effect: Most people smiled! Some also gave Jaden a hug or were moved to tears after hearing his story. Many offered donations, but the aunt declined. Only two people completely pushed them aside. They plan to do at least one more giveaway on the Savannah streets.

The Upshot

DiCola's daughter, Natasha Compton, has been documenting Jaden's "smile giveaways" on her Instagram account, and performing acts of kindness in memory of his parents has helped Jaden and the whole family heal.

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

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