SURPRISE, AZ - There's a reason why Stephan Sexton drives around everywhere he goes with a box full of Hot Wheels cars.
Four years ago, Sexton's son was born prematurely. Nine days later, the baby died.
"He was born very early, he was only 2.4 pounds," said Sexton.
After the death of his son, Sexton said every memory only brought more hurt and more pain.
"I thought about him every day. It was just always very heavy on me," he said.
Because of his love for cars, he would leave a Hot Wheels car at his son's memorial during each visit. He would talk to his son about all the fun they would have had and how he would have played with cars with him. It was during one of these visits that he had an idea.
He wanted to bring joy to others, so he began giving out Hot Wheels cars to kids. He gave the first one to a young boy at a car wash. He said the reaction he got from the child's mother was indescribable and he knew this was what he needed to continue doing.
"She came over and she almost had tears in her eyes and she said, 'You know, I bring my kid to the car wash because he's autistic and he loves cars,'" Sexton said.
Together with friends and family, he has continued giving out the miniature cars. All together they've given out almost 300. Most are left in parks, hiking trails and other public places for kids to find.
"It's something I can't imagine doing without now in my life," Sexton added.
His cars have been left--and subsequently found--all over the Valley and in other states like Colorado, Texas, and California. Each car has a note: "This is a gift to you in memory of my son Jarrett Sexton. Enjoy it yourself or pass it along to brighten someone's day! If you would like to share where you found it or how you passed it on, drop me a line on Facebook at In Memory of Jarrett Sexton."
And people have been reaching out. Parents have posted about how the simple gesture brought joy to their child's life and how this tiny act of generosity helped them through tough times.
One woman wrote, "..I wanted to thank you for the reminder to hold my babies extra close tonight. I'm so sorry for all that you guys have gone through, but what you're doing is beautiful."
Another wrote, "Thank you for brightening my sons day today. I've been going through a struggle lately and it's been rough. As we were walking along McDonald's (Northeast) ive (sic) noticed a Matchbox toy near the red box rental and read your note attached and brought tears to my eyes. I'm sorry for your loss and THANK YOU."
"Every time I get a message I feel like my heart heals just a tiny bit," Sexton said.
His goal now is to have them found in all 50 states.
"There's probably a good 40 that are out there right now," Sexton added.
So if you do find one of his cars be sure to drop him a line on Facebook. He'd love to see just how far his son's memory has traveled to brighten someone's day.