Father of Gay Teen Suicide Walks Across US to Fight Bullying
The father of a gay Oregon teen who died from a suicide attempt in February plans to walk across the United States to honor his son and to promote anti-bullying awareness, the Columbian (Wash.) reports.
Joe Bell, of La Grande, Ore., says he will roam the U.S. over a two year period in memory of his 15-year-old son, Jadin. Bell started his journey on Saturday when he left his Oregon home and plans on walking between 15 to 25 miles a day. Bell is so dedicated to the walk, he even resigned from his job at Boise Cascade in order to carry out the trek.
"When a child is bullied there are usually a lot [of] witnesses," Bell told the La Grande Observer. "Not doing anything is not acceptable. [Those who watch and do nothing] are just as guilty. They are saying that it is acceptable."
Bell plans on making stops to speak at schools during his walk on behalf of Faces of Change, the anti-bullying group that was founded in Jadin's memory. Bell says his visit to New York will be important.
"Jadin wanted to someday live in New York City," he said.
The Observer notes that Bell may be the first person to walk across the U.S. with two artificial knees.
In late January Jadin, who was the alleged victim of anti-gay bullying, was rushed to the hospital after he tried to hang himself at an elementary school playground. He was put on life support but doctors did not expect him to survive. A few days later in February, Jadin's family took him off life support. He died on Feb. 3.
Family members say the openly gay teen suffered from severe anti-gay bullying both in real life and online.
"He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones," Bud Hill, a family friend who said Bell was like a nephew to him, said. "If someone was down and out he would walk into a room and say a couple quick words and everybody would just forget about their problems and smile. He just had a gift."
At one point, the harassment against Jadin, who was a sophomore and cheerleader at La Grande High School, apparently became so severe he asked his parents to homeschool him.
While the teen was in the hospital, nearly 200 people attended a vigil in Bell's honor. Friends, family and classmates gathered to remember the student.
"Jadin is one of the best people I have ever met. He makes everyone around him feel good all the time," Frankie Benitez, a junior at the high school, said. "Jadin always remembers people no matter what," he continued. "If I felt bad, I would hang out with him and he would say something small like, 'I love your sweater.' He notices things you didn't think anyone notices."