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Close to 50 photos of Jadin Bell were displayed at a vigil for the La Grande High School sophomore Wednesday at the Art Center at the Old Library. Bell was seriously injured in a suicide attempt last Saturday. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
By Dick Mason
A La Grande High School student clinging to life in a Portland hospital received an outpouring of support from his classmates Wednesday night.
Close to 200 people, the majority of whom were LHS students, attended a vigil for Jadin Bell, a 15-year-old sophomore who was seriously injured in a suicide attempt last Saturday.
“We are overwhelmed. We are very thankful for all of the support,” said Bud Hill of La Grande, a close friend of Bell’s family.
The vigil, organized by LHS students, was held at the Art Center at the Old Library and ran more than 90 minutes. It ended only after those attending were told that they had to leave because the building had to be closed.
Numerous friends and classmates spoke about Bell in heartfelt tones, painting a portrait of a young man who has an uncommon way of lifting the spirits of others.
“Jadin is one of the best people I have ever met. He makes everyone around him feel good all the time,” said LHS junior Frankie Benitez.
She said Bell is someone who never forgets his friends.
“Jadin always remembers people no matter what,” Benitez said. “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.”
Another girl described Jadin as the sweetest boy she had ever met. She recalled that when she transferred to LHS, Bell was the first person she did not know to talk to her.
He praised her on her appearance, picking up her spirits enormously.
Candy Blackman, an LHS parent who attended the vigil, offered offered a similar perspective.
“He always gives a compliment to everybody the first time he meets them,” Blackman said. “He always has a smile on his face.”
Bell is a member of the LHS cheerleading team, and, Blackman said, cheerleading fits his outgoing, colorful personality.
“Cheerleading is his passion,” Blackman said.
Jody Bullock, a close family friend, described Bell as a gentle, caring person, one who has been this way since childhood.
“He is amazingly sensitive. If he saw a wounded butterfly (as a child) he wanted to heal it,’’ Bullock said.
Bullock runs an adult assisted living home for seniors. She said Bell came over frequently and always made a point of saying hello to her residents and talking with them. Bullock said it is unusual for young people to do this, noting that often young people are afraid of seniors.
“He is an amazing young man who is smart and very social,” Bullock said.
Bullock said that when Bell is involved in something he has a way of getting other people to join in.
“He has a persona and a presence that you want to be a part of,” she said.
Bell has a talent for connecting with a wide array of people. This was evident at the vigil, which was attended by people from all portions of LHS and even La Grande Middle School. Many signed and created cards for Bell, which have been sent to him.
Nearly 50 printouts of large photos of Bell were displayed on a wall at the vigil, many capturing his warm, colorful personality in poses with friends. Once it was announced the photos were available to everyone they were gone in minutes.
Bell has been hospitalized since being found Saturday afternoon hanging from an apparatus at the Central Elementary School playground. He was saved by a fast-responding passerby and taken to Grande Ronde Hospital. Bell was then flown to Oregon Health Science University and is now in the intensive care unit at the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
Bell is the son of Lola Lathrop and Joe Bell. Lathrop said Thursday morning by phone from Portland she was heartened to hear of the outpouring of support for Jadin at the vigil and the many people who spoke of his personal qualities.
“We always knew that Jadin is a special person. Now everyone knows,” Lathrop said.
Bullying may have played role in attempt
By Dick Mason
Family and friends believe bullying may have driven Jadin Bell to attempt suicide last Saturday in La Grande.
Many expressed this view at a vigil for Bell Wednesday night at the Art Center at the Old Library.
Bud Hill, a close family friend, is among those who believe bullying may have played a role in Bell’s attempted suicide. Hill said the root cause of bullying in schools needs to be addressed.
“Something needs to be done about bullying. It should not have come to something like this to get started (on an anti-bullying campaign),’’ said Hill, who is such a close family friend that Bell refers to him as his uncle.
Hill said he hopes to help schools address the bullying issue.
Dana Thomas, a parent of an LHS student, said the tragic situation involving Bell points out the need for people to stand up against bullies. She said if someone is doing something like pushing a student against a locker, people need to stand up to them.
La Grande High senior Edith Moore believes the impact bullying has on people would be buffered, if more people told others how much they care about them.
“If you tell everyone that you love them, it will make a huge difference,’’ Moore said.
She said if individuals made a point of regularly telling five different people that they love them it would have a profound impact and reduced the likelihood of tragedies like the one involving Bell.
Moore then said Bell, who often tells people how much he likes them, probably did not realize how loved he was before his attempted suicide.
“I think that if he thought this many people would show up (at the vigil) he would not have tried to kill himself,” Moore said.
Bell’s mother, Lola Lathrop, had a message for anyone considering taking on the role of a bully.
“The next time you are thinking of being unkind to someone, think to yourself, if that person was a member of your family, would you want them treated like that?” Don’t treat them like that.” Lathrop said by phone from Portland.