Benton Harbor boy celebrates 8th birthday by helping the needy

NOW: Benton Harbor boy celebrates 8th birthday by helping the needy


Jaylen Dortch told his father he wanted to spend his birthday giving away $27 he had saved up to those in need at the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen.

“It’s April 18, 2017,” says Korry Dortch, in a cellphone video he recorded. “Jaylen turns 8 today and for his birthday, we gonna help some homeless people.”

What follows in the video is an unusual sight.

A group of adults, outside the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen, are flocking around Jaylen, as he hands out $1 bills.

“Aw! You such a sweet one!” says one woman in the video. “Thank you!”

But for Jaylen, it’s how he wanted to spend his eighth birthday after visiting Chicago with his Mom.

“I didn’t pay it a whole lot of attention cause he’s kind of a jokester,” said Korry, in an interview. “And I’m thinking, ‘OK, you want to spend all your money on homeless people? Yeah, right.’ But then when I asked him again, he’s like, ‘No, really. I want to go and I want to help some homeless people.’ So I thought about it and I said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it.’”

In between riding his new bicycle and playing laser tag with his Dad, Jaylen could not stop thinking about what he had seen in the Windy City.

“I saw a lot of homeless people at Chicago, right?” said Jaylen, in an interview. “And they seemed very poor, so I just wanted to help them out.”

So with $27 he had saved up throughout the last few months, Jaylen spent his birthday morning giving to those in need in his own community.

While the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen serves both those who have homes and those who don’t, Jaylen’s generosity was not overlooked by those he encountered.

“It’s your birthday?” asks one man in the video, approaching Jaylen to give him a hug. “Happy Birthday, man!”

Terri Suel got two dollars from Jaylen.

“I got so happy,” she said, in an interview. “I was smiling. I was just about to cry. I said, ‘Oh God!’ I’m looking all up in the sky. I said, ‘Oh! You sent an angel to me who brought me some money when I need it.’”

And though Jaylen was out of money by the time Shealena Simpson got outside, she still called Jaylen’s gesture a blessing.

“He could’ve been an angel,” said Simpson, in an interview. “People probably could’ve taken the dollar and got a tissue or a pop or something, you never know.”

Korry said he’s still amazed by his son, even a few weeks after the fact.

‘When we were going through the process, I thought it would be a cool idea,” he said. “But I didn’t realize how much it impacted me until we actually did it. I would have to say that this was definitely the proudest moment in my life. He really did something – in the world we live in today, everybody’s out for themselves; everyone wants to worry about what’s just good for them. So, we can all learn a lot from an 8-year-old.”

Between laser tag laughs Monday afternoon, Jaylen explained what he likes most about helping people.

“The good feeling inside,” he said.

Korry said Jaylen recently told him he’d like to give away $1,000 for his birthday next year.

The two are already working on saving up some money. 

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