LA GRANDE, Ore. — The father of a gay Oregon teenager who hanged himself is ready to begin walking across the United States to spread his message against bullying.
Joe Bell says it’ll take two years and 5,000 miles, at a rate of 15 to 25 miles a day, to make it to the East Coast. He plans to set out Saturday, the Baker City Herald reported.
He and his 15-year-old son, Jadin, had gone to a counselor to report the bullying before the high school sophomore from La Grande hanged himself in a schoolyard in January. The teenager died two weeks later.
The youth had been open about being gay.
The school and family haven’t released details of the bullying or confirmed a connection between that and his suicide.
Bell resigned from his longtime job with Boise Cascade to make his walk, which he’ll do on two artificial knees. The replacement surgery was done in 2010.
“I needed a break. I was ready, I was looking for something different,” he told the La Grande Observer when he announced plans for the trek. “I just wish, however, that I was doing this under different circumstances.”
Along the way, he plans to speak at schools and other venues, and emphasize the importance of speaking up against bullying.
Article continues belowThe New York stop will be important, he said, because Jadin visited the city on a school trip to eastern historic sites.
“Jadin wanted to someday live in New York City,” he said.
His wife and another son plan to meet him regularly on the trip.
The father has set up a foundation, Faces For Change, to promote anti-bullying programs.
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