Philly Faces: Aidan Nadell

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Teenagers don’t typically spend a lot of time thinking about their legacies. Impressions, sure, but legacies are a decidedly less frequent topic of thought and discussion.

Aidan Nadell, a 17-year old senior at Upper Dublin High School, is one of the exceptions that prove the rule.

Nadell, stuck at home like everyone else during the pandemic, wanted to bring together the threads of his life into something positive. So, gathering up the skills he’d learned through his extracurricular activity (Future Business Leaders of America), his volunteer work (Philly Friendship Circle) and his job (Chabad Garden School, in Fort Washington), Nadell started the Spread Smiles Movement, selling apparel and accessories with prominently displayed smile designs in order to raise $5,000 for a “coronavirus-conscientious” playground at the Chabad Garden School over 12 months.


Nadell quickly blew past that goal, and has other Philadelphia-area organizations in mind for the destination of the Spread Smiles Movement’s next $5,000. Nadell doesn’t leave for college until next year, so there may be other charitable organizations reaping the benefits before he goes.

What is the Spread Smiles Movement? And how does it connect to the work the to the fundraising work you’ve done with Chabad?
I founded the movement to promote positivity, philanthropy and perspective during today’s uncertainty. I sell “smiling” products, such as shirts, masks, bracelets, stickers — you name it. The goal was to be able to raise $5,000 in 12 months to be able to leave a legacy behind at Chabad Garden School, and to have a piece of the playground named after me, for when I’m in college, and I’m no longer working with the kids there. So thanks to involvement with social media, and talking to media outlets, I was able to accomplish that goal in a quarter of the time, in only three months. I was able to hand in that check before the school year started. These kids can have that COVID-safe playground, and I can still work there.

How does this work fit in with what you want to do academically and professionally?
I’m going to Ursinus College to study business administration and entrepreneurship. This passion project of mine is kind of a pioneering project for me; I want to be able to take my love for kindness, love for perspective, love for making a difference in the places that shaped me, and be able to create businesses out of it. The Spread Smiles Movement — I’m going to take it as far as people are willing to support it. That’s why I had committed to the next chapter. I don’t want to just stop at the $5,000 if there’s potential to make more. I told you about the Share Food Program?

Tell me a little bit more about it.
It’s the destination of my next $5,000. It is the largest food bank in the Philadelphia region. I’m dedicating it to my guidance counselor, who, through 25 years of service at Upper Dublin — I’ve been with her for seven years, and just like how Chabad has really shaped who I am, so has she with the academic side of things. And food insecurity is also a very meaningful and potent cause right now, there’s a lot more food insecurity going on. And they’re tripling their efforts. So any dollar counts and every dollar counts.

What’s the most exciting thing about the Spread Smiles Movement?
It’s amazing that, whether you know me, whether you know my movement or not, you are able to recognize and appreciate the message, you’re able to have your day lifted a little bit. Just to be able to see that and be able to see that, to touch and impact of people that I haven’t even heard of, I don’t even know — it’s just wonderful.

jbernstein@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740

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