At the age of six, Jaden Hayes suffered a pain that no child should ever suffer. Having already lost his father at the age of four, his mother too passed away in her sleep two years later leaving him an orphan. The child was truly heartbroken. How he chose to channel his suffering was something nobody anticipated though.

His aunt first realized how special Jaden was when he came up to her and told her how sick he was of seeing everyone sad and how he had a plan to change it. With her help, the six year old boy bought a bunch of toys and ventured out into the streets of Savannah, Georgia where he lives.

The orphan would go up to everyone he felt could use a happy boost and hand them one of the toys, demanding nothing more than that they smile and be happy. And it worked. People of all ages and races broke out into smiles as the young boy came up to them and handed them unexpected gifts. And yes, there were a few tears too as they realized the back story of the child standing in front of them looking to make them happy.

Orphaned at six, Jaden Hayes channeled his sorrow towards a remarkable cause. Sick of seeing people around him sad, the young boy started 'The Smile Experiment.' With the help of his aunt, he ventured into the streets of Savannah, Georgia where he lives and handed out toys to people he met who he felt could use a happy boost; all he demanded in return was that they smile and be happy. In less than 3 years, the young child has made a massive 33,000 people smile with his simple gesture.


Dubbed 'The Smile Experiment', Jaden made over 500 people smile in just a few months. His target though was much higher as is the norm with small children - 33,000. That was two years ago.

Did he attain that target?
I got to talking with his aunt and legal guardian, Diane Hollars.

I find it amazing that at age 4, Jaden was capable of such maturity to focus on other people's happiness. How do people react when he comes up to them and gives them gifts?


Jaden has always been taught to get things for himself, if he wanted something, he had to get it, he had to get things for his mom, he did a lot "adult" things, when he should of been being a kid. Please don't get me wrong, I loved his mom dearly, but she was trying to get him to grow up too soon. I guess that's where his maturity comes in. When we brought him "home", it took us a long time to get him out of the 'adulting' habit - he wanted to cook and do laundry while we just wanted him to be a kid.

He tries real hard to make sure people have things. If somebody doesn't have something, he will go get them something; either give them his or go buy it. He gets sad when he sees somebody go without something, he says everybody needs something, nobody should be lonely.

Orphaned at six, Jaden Hayes channeled his sorrow towards a remarkable cause. Sick of seeing people around him sad, the young boy started 'The Smile Experiment.' With the help of his aunt, he ventured into the streets of Savannah, Georgia where he lives and handed out toys to people he met who he felt could use a happy boost; all he demanded in return was that they smile and be happy. In less than 3 years, the young child has made a massive 33,000 people smile with his simple gesture.

Who are his biggest role models?

He talks a lot about his dad teaching him things when he was little, he also looks up to his Uncle Bugg- that's what he started calling my husband Scott when he was little. He likes Roman Reigns, John Cena, Stephen Curry.
He usually doesn't ask for much. He's more of a giver but one thing he really wants more than anything is to go to Disneyworld.

Orphaned at six, Jaden Hayes channeled his sorrow towards a remarkable cause. Sick of seeing people around him sad, the young boy started 'The Smile Experiment.' With the help of his aunt, he ventured into the streets of Savannah, Georgia where he lives and handed out toys to people he met who he felt could use a happy boost; all he demanded in return was that they smile and be happy. In less than 3 years, the young child has made a massive 33,000 people smile with his simple gesture.


Jaden aimed to make at least 33,000 people smile. That sounds like a ridiculously huge target. How close is he to that target?

We lost count but he passed 33,000 a long time ago.

I guess Jaden must be 8 years old now. Does he still continue bringing joy to strangers with his gifts?

Jaden will be 9 on April 28. He has not publicly done another Smile experiment since the one in Savannah but he does continue to pass out toys and gifts to people whenever he sees an individual sad or sick somewhere. We carry toys with us wherever we go. We are in the process of planning  a trip to downtown Athens by UGA which is only about 15 minutes from us in the next few weeks to do another Smile experiment.

Orphaned at six, Jaden Hayes channeled his sorrow towards a remarkable cause. Sick of seeing people around him sad, the young boy started 'The Smile Experiment.' With the help of his aunt, he ventured into the streets of Savannah, Georgia where he lives and handed out toys to people he met who he felt could use a happy boost; all he demanded in return was that they smile and be happy. In less than 3 years, the young child has made a massive 33,000 people smile with his simple gesture.



You can find more amazing moments from Jaden's Journey by seeking out the hashtag #TheSmileExperiment on social media.


Author's note:

This is part of my #AtoZChallenge where I will be focusing on Real Life Heroes of Kindness and Compassion.
The list for this year's (2018) Heroes of Kindness can be found here.
Of course, I have been tracking these lovely human beings for years now and have found children as young as six years old and old women in their eighties from across the world who will restore your faith in humanity. You can find the entire list of Real-life Heroes of Kindness and Compassion here.

46 Comments

  1. Saddest people try their best to make others happy cause they know what it's like to feel absolutely worthless..Jayden's story really touched my heart thinking what that child had to go through at such a young age.

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    1. exactly. which is what makes his choice so remarkable

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  2. He gets sad when he sees somebody go without something, he says everybody needs something, nobody should be lonely.

    This made me burst into tears. May this boy be blessed, and Thankyou for sharing his story, Roshan.

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    1. we have so many young heroes around us. we need social media to keep reminding us they exist

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  3. Such a tiny tot and such a big giver; I was crying reading his aunt's words that he wanted to cook and launder as his mom had tried to make him grow up fast so that he could cope. How heart wrenching is that!! Hats off to Jayden or rather a big warm hug to him!!

    J is for Djinni #atozchallenge

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    1. True. I can't imagine we were half as good as him at that age..

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  4. Happy birthday Jaden (a little in advance).May God bless you with all the happiness you have helped share.I think I learned something again which one forgets growing older.Keep.smiling.Good job Diana.

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    1. I sincerely hope he gets his wishes in the years to come.

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  5. I came to your blog giggling because I read your comment on Shilpa's blog where you expressed your desire to work as a belly dancer :-P
    But when I read your post I got tears in my eyes..such a small boy, so much misfortune yet so loving and giving. He is the true role model for the joy of giving. We need more kids like him for a better society.

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    1. agree 100% with your last line. These are the kind of kids we should showcase in society.

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  6. A true hero. The world would be such a happier place if everyone thought like Jaden.
    Jaden- You are a real hero. People have lost their smiles these days. It's remarkable how you are making them smile again.

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    1. I agree... what he noted at that young age was so true... the smiles have gone from most people's faces.

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  7. Pranjali MehtaApril 11, 2018

    Such a cute way of spreading happiness. A lesaon for those who are not happy with their lives due to very small and trivial reasons, to appreciate each small moment of happiness in their lives.

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    1. We need the youth to lead us, I feel. We tend to forget the simple act of smiling and being happy, weighed down by our worries.

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  8. Often, we are unaware of the battles people have fought just because we see them with a big smile. That's Jaden's case. All he does is smile and makes the world smile with him. Never does he show them his tears. All he wants is people's happiness. Only a person who has undergone immense pain can do that. The only thing surprising here, is Jaden was only 6 when he began the Smile experiment. Jaden's story left me dumbstruck!

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    1. His story was one of the best I came across during this challenge. One I really wanted to showcase.

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  9. Only the person who has gone through challenges of life, can understand the challenges of other people. What has amazed me is that Jaden realized this at such a young age and went all out to make other people smile. He is a real hero. More power to him!

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    1. definitely destined for more in the years to come, touchwood.

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  10. Everybody thinks that their pain is greater. But what differentiates the greater ones is the ability to understand others pain and make efforts to bring happiness. This little kid has the purest soul and presents an example of how bringing smiles in others lives will ease away your pain. It doesn't have to be a Herculean effort, sometimes just a smile can matter so much. Hats off lil champ. God bless you.

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    1. I wish more adults would follow in JADEN's lead... do this and push the Smile Experiment forward on a national level. Heaven knows the country needs it

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  11. Advance happy bday Jayden ... u r a true super hero... u are a living example to Prove that god lives in every human. This is a story which I want to convey to my kids. God bless. Take care. Dr anoop hassan

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    1. Thanks Dr Anoop. That is the best thing a parent can do - share the story with their child. INSPIRE children across the world with Jaden's example.

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  12. Oh my goodness! It feels so heartwarming. Three cheers to Jaden and to you, Roshan for bringing this story and interview to us.
    Kohl Eyed Me
    Something's Cooking

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    1. Cheers goes to Jaden alone. He is da maan :)

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  13. you have shown us "grown ups" something that v have forgotten even with so simple a gesture... lesson learned... thank you and happy birthday to u jaden

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    1. So agree, Dr Ravish. We adults have actually forgotten the basic lesson of just smiling and doing a selfless deed

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  14. It's soo heart touching..another great example of how kids r selfless..I feel it's not age that brings maturity ,but the pain one undergoes in life..that makes anyone to think nd act best .may God bless you dear jayden.wish you make more people smile..

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    1. I agree. Those who have suffered know the true value of a smile and happiness.

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  15. This post makes me so happy! Such a kind soul and I'm so glad he has his aunt supporting him. We need more families likes these.

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    1. True. He's blessed to have a guiding force now once more.

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  16. He actually does this at such a young age??? Kudos to him :)

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  17. What a lovely child. If only adults would learn from this! I can only imagine what great things Jaden will accomplish when he's older!

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    1. True. This is someone worth keeping track of and encouraging as he grows up every step of the way

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  18. What an inspiration this kid is! Wish everyone has a heart as pure and giving as his 😊

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  19. Happy birthday Jaden and wish Him the bright future ahead. That's so inspiring to make someone smile. That's very motivating act of kindness

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    1. These are the kind of acts that need to be showcased regularly in the media.

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  20. This is so sweet. A smile can change everything and it costs nothing. Good job Jaden.

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    1. We need more people from other countries to join Team Jaden :)

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  21. Never underestimate where the source of inspiration comes from. Not even a 6 yr old child !! Yes the this child is indeed the father of the man.

    PhenoMenon

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  22. I have tears as I read this in. My eyes. The biggest sorrow is to loose parents and that he is so positive and wants to bring others happiness at that age is commendable. True hero

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  23. Happy Birthday to him! May he also get smiles - from those who love him. A real hero and so small!

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  24. Children so young also have the guts to donate their favorite toys. This is really appreciated.

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So what do you think ?