Several years ago, Michael Ray experienced a tragedy most of us can’t even fathom. After the birth of twin boys, Michael and his family were dealt an unbelievable blow when one of them passed away at just three months old from an undetected blood clot that burst.
The next several years were some of the darkest for the grieving dad. There was little that could break him out of the despair he was feeling, that is except for his daughter Maddie’s incredible smile. Maddie has down syndrome and is non-verbal, meaning she’s often unable to express exactly how she’s feeling. But when Maddie smiles, Michael, and as it turns out the entire world, smiles with her.
“She has never said the words ‘I love you’ clear enough or clear enough for me to understand or hear,” Michael shared with ABC affiliate WHAS. “So I then kind of turned around for years and was like ‘do you love daddy?’’’ While the words were never there, her smile told Michael everything he needed to know.
It was so powerful that the Louisville dad was inspired to share it with the world. Michael had found his new purpose, and so Smile Project Louisville was created.
Born out of a simple interaction with a Wendy’s employee that brightened Michael’s day back in 2018, it blossomed into what is now a full-on mission for the family. The movement, inspired by Maddie and her instantly infectious grin, promotes small acts of kindness, encouraging everyone to “Be the reason someone smiles today.” With nearly 3,000 followers on Facebook and countless other lives touched by their generosity of spirit, you could likely say it’s all going pretty well.
The father/daughter duo now travel around their community, all in an attempt to simply brighten someone else’s day. “I’m really trying to change attitudes and behaviors by spreading love through smiling. It’s the simplicity of a smile, it doesn’t cost anything,” Michael said. Local residents can nominate someone they feel needs a little boost or is deserving of a little recognition. From a smile, to balloons, to paying for a single mother’s groceries, everything they do is to see those reactions and know they made a small difference – you can watch them here.
Now there are even plans to turn the movement into a full-fledged non-profit, with hopes to branch out on a national level in the near future.
It’s an inspiring story and a true example of how even in darkness, there are always people looking for the light.