The father of Jadin Bell, the gay high school sophomore that hung himself in January after enduring years of bullying, has vowed to spread a message of hope and acceptance for other teens by walking across America.
Jadin, 15, had reported homophobic bullying to a school counselor in the past, but like so many teens in America, was left to fend for himself. Without a proper support system at La Grande High School in La Grande, Orgeon, the teen resorted to suicide and died after a month of living on life support.
In the wake of his son’s death, Joe Bell has officially resigned from his job to walk 5,000 miles across America—a trip that will take two years—on a speaking tour, visiting schools and emphasizing the importance of combating bullying in schools. “It will be a healing process for him,” says Bud Hill, co-founder of Bell’s Faces For Change foundation.
But Bell’s journey will serve more than one purpose. After undergoing major back surgery that resulted in having two artificial knees in 2010, he’s met his own share of pessimists. “They tell me, ‘You can’t do that’,” he says, but accompanied by the memory of his late son, Bell believes he’ll be the first person to walk across the United States with two artificial knees.
[photo: The Columbian]