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Setback slows but doesn’t deter Bell
La Grande native has cart stolen near Salt Lake City
A recent setback in Utah is not deterring Joe Bell in his walk across the United States to honor his late son and raise awareness about bullying.
About 10 days ago, the La Grande resident was taking a break along a highway outside Salt Lake City when a driver stopped and stole the cart he was using to transport most of his gear. The theft occurred at dusk while Bell was momentarily looking away from the cart.
“He was only 10- or 15-feet away from the cart. He did not hear anything because the traffic was so loud,” said Bell’s wife, Lola Lathrop, of La Grande.
Fortunately Bell’s gear in the cart, all in a single pack, was found by people assisting him, about three miles down the highway. The thief had not taken anything out of Bell’s pack. Unfortunately, Bell’s sturdy lightweight cart was nowhere to be found.
Bell, who was not feeling well at the time of the theft because of a sinus infection he has been taking antibiotics for, spent the next several days at the home of a Utah couple. One of them is now building a cart to replace the one Bell had stolen.
The cart is not yet finished, so when Bell resumed his walk on Friday he was carrying the gear he had been pushing in his cart. The friend building the new cart will catch up with Bell on the road later and give it to him once he has completed it.
Meanwhile, the extra weight Bell is now carrying is taking a toll.
“His knees are swelling,” Lathrop said.
Bell had double knee replacement surgery in 2010.
Bell has not been available to comment this week because he has been out of cellphone range in Utah. Bell, however, did post a message on his Facebook page Tuesday.
“I want to thank everybody for their support,” the message said. “You are all so wonderful! I apologize that it is taking me so long to get out of Salt Lake City. But things happen for a reason. I have met some very good people!”
Bell is not able to travel with a large quantity of water without his cart. He is carrying a one-gallon container of water, one he is filling up at streams, Lathrop said.
Lathrop recently met with her husband in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“He is having a hard time keeping weight on because it is hard for him to take in as many calories as he is expending,” Lathrop said.
Bell began his walk across the United States on April 20 to raise awareness of bullying in memory of his son, Jadin Bell. Jadin, 15, a gay La Grande High School sophomore, who died Feb. 3 from injuries suffered in a Jan. 19 suicide attempt. Friends and family believe that Jadin was driven to suicide by bullying.
Following Jadin’s passing, a foundation, Faces For Change, was established in Jadin’s memory to promote anti-bullying programs. Joe Bell is speaking on behalf of the foundation and Jadin throughout his journey.
Bell has covered close to 600 miles of his 5,000-mile journey. The distance across the United States is about 3,000 miles, but Bell will walk farther because he is not going directly across the country. Instead he will hike through many southern states, including Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana before moving north through Pennsylvania, New York and his final destination of the Delaware coastline.