Walking to remember

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 20, 2013 12:30 pm


Joe Bell planning cross-country walk to honor son, Jadin, and promote anti-bullying programs, message 

by DICK MASON / The Observer

Jadin Bell was a young man who never forgot his family and friends. 

Soon, his father, Joe Bell, of La Grande, will make a cross-country trek to make sure that Jadin’s tragic but compelling story is never forgotten.

Joe Bell is preparing to begin a two-year, 5,000-mile walk across the United States to promote an anti-bullying program in remembrance of his son. Jadin Bell, a gay La Grande High School sophomore, died Feb. 3 from injuries suffered from a suicide attempt on Jan. 19. Jadin’s family and friends believe that he 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 will be speaking on behalf of the foundation and Jadin throughout his journey. He will discuss the importance of people stepping in to stop bullying when they see it.

“When a child is bullied there are usually a lot witnesses. Not doing anything is not acceptable,” Bell said. “(Those who watch and do nothing) are just as guilty. They are saying that it is acceptable.”

Bell, who will speak at many schools, will invite students to
accompany him on a passage of his journey. 

“They will have a chance to walk with Joe for a day and get to know him,” said Bud Hill, a good friend of Bell and a founder of the Faces For Change Foundation. 

Bell will begin his 5,000-mile journey from La Grande in April. The distance across the United States is about 3,000 miles, but Bell will walk further because he will not go directly across the county. Instead, he will hike through many southern states, including Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana before moving north through Pennsylvania, New York and his destination of the Delaware coastline.

New York City is on Bell’s itinerary. His walk through NYC will be particularly poignant.

 “Jadin wanted to someday live in New York City,” Joe Bell said. 

He recalled that some of the most exciting days of Jadin’s life were the ones he spent in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., while visiting historic sites with an eighth-grade Philadelphia Trip group from La Grande.

“That trip was the highlight of his life,” said Bell, his eyes filling with tears.

Jadin was a cheerleader at LHS and was a person known for always having having a smile on his face and a compliment for everyone he met. His popularity was such that more than 300 people, primarily students, attended a memorial service for him at LHS.

Joe Bell is making the walk not only to honor Jadin and speak out against bullying, but also to help him cope.

“It will be a healing process for him,” Hill said. “He enjoys the outdoors.” 

Bell resigned from his longtime job with Boise Cascade to make his walk. He said that the change will be good for him.

“I needed a break. I was ready, I was looking for something different,” he said. “I just wish, however, that I was doing this under different circumstances.”

Bell said that the hardest part of his journey will be being away from his family. Still, he will see his family many times for his son, Joseph, and wife, Lola, plan to meet him regularly on his journey. 

Some people are telling Bell that his journey will prove too challenging for him.

“They tell me ‘You can’t do that,’” Bell said.

Bell responds by noting that tens of thousands of women and children made a much more difficult journey when they came to the Northwest on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s. He
believes his walk will be a piece of cake by comparison. 

“We are so spoiled,” Bell said.

His walk will be a testament to marvels of modern medicine. Bell had major back surgery and double knee replacement surgery in 2010. He hopes that his walk will inspire people who have had joint replacement surgery by showing them what they can do. 

“I may be the first person to walk across the United States with two artificial knees,” he said.

Bell said he knows that he will feel as if Jadin will be with him throughout is journey. Bell also knows that his journey will be filled with twists he cannot anticipate. 

“I can only put it in God’s hands,” Bell said.