Good Joe Bell: A Father’s Memorial Walk For His Bullied Son
In 2013, Joe Bell, a man from Eastern Oregon, set out on foot on a mission to walk across the US raising awareness about the harms of bullying. He spoke to school groups and communities, to share the story about his gay son Jadin, who had committed suicide after being mercilessly bullied in high school.
Bell’s artificial knees ached but he was determined to make it on foot from his home state of Oregon to New York City, where his son Jadin had dreamed of one day working in fashion or photography.
He mapped out a route and assembled a network of friends who would track his progress. He quit his job at a plywood mill, threw some clothes and a sleeping bag onto his back and loaded up a three-wheeled pushcart with food and gallons of water, then set off on April 20, according to a New York Times article.
He documented his journey through social media posts, sharing stories about the kindness he experienced from strangers; those who fed him dinner, refilled his water jugs, offered him a bed in their home or made small donations to keep his trek going.
While he was mainly alone on his journey, Bell would spend weeks in large cities, finding speaking opportunities with anti-bullying organizations and suicide-prevention groups. Many of the friends he made along the way, offered to drive him down the road, but Bell always insisted every inch had to be on foot.
Bell had walked for nearly six months, before his journey came to a tragic end. While walking on the shoulder of a highway in eastern Colorado, Bell was by hit by a truck and died later that day.
The Sherriff who found him, had spoken to Bell just the day before, according to a New York Times article. They quickly bonded as fathers of gay sons.
“I only knew him for a very short time, but this man had to of made a huge difference in everyone he met. He made me realize how important basic humanity still is,” said the Sherriff.
Bell's story is being told by the Oscar-winning writers of Brokeback Mountain in a film called Good Joe Bell, starring Mark Wahlberg. The film will be released at TIFF on September 14.
Philadelphia / phillymag.com
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