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Meet the 6-year-old orphan on a mission to spread joy

Jaden hayes

CBS Evening News | YouTube | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 03/19/21

You might need to grab a tissue.

The last year has been unbelievably tough for so many people. There’s been a mix of insecurity and fear, as well as grief for those who’ve lost loved ones due to COVID. And with the pandemic being far from over, people are continuing to struggle and in need of a smile. With this in mind, we wanted to share the story of Jaden Hayes, whose take on sadness and anxiety is totally refreshing.

In an interview for Steve Hartman’s series “On the Road” for CBS, the then-6-year old little boy from Georgia shared his tragic story. His dad passed away when he was 4 and then two years later his mom died in her sleep. “I tried and I tried and I tried to get her awake — I couldn’t,” he explained in the video below.

However, in his grief he realized how difficult it was for him to see others around him feeling sad. So the orphan decided to remedy this. With the help of his aunt and guardian at the time, Barbara DiCola, he went and bought lots of little toys to hand out to passers-by in Savannah, Georgia, whom he felt needed to have their spirits raised.

The television clips shows four different occasions when the little boy went up to strangers and handed them little gifts. All he wants in return is to make people smile. Unsurprisingly his efforts have worked!

“It’s like sheer joy came out of this child, and the more people that he made smile, the more this light shone,” explained his aunt.

At the time of the filming, Jaden had managed to count 500 people whom he’d made smile. While he readily admitted that he was still sad about his mother’s death, the smile mission had given him a sense of purpose.

Now, a few years later, Jaden is still keeping up his good work. He lives with his aunt and uncle, Scott and Diane Hollars, in Georgia and is a huge fan of WWE. His Facebook page, Jaden’s Journey, describes how this young “smile maker’ is still bringing joy to others.

His initial aim was to make 33,000 people smile through his kind gesture, but by spreading his story we’re pretty sure he’s managed to inspire many more smiles — and perhaps a few tears.


Read more:
Is joy possible during the pandemic?

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