By Terri Harber
Joe Bell plans to start walking across the United States on Saturday, April 20.
He is the father of Jadin Bell, a 15-year-old teen who killed himself this past winter after being bullied by classmates at La Grande High School.
Telling Jadin's story to as many people as possible - especially young people - seemed like the right thing to do, Joe said.
He'll stop along the way to explain to various community members why it's important not to humiliate or intimidate people simply because they are different.
Jadin had been open about his being gay and those close to him believe this is why he was bullied.
Joe plans to end the walk in New York City, where his son wanted to go after graduation. Jadin went there as part of a class trip and really loved it, Joe said.
He recently completed a test walk between La Grande and Baker City.
It went well, said Lola Lathrop, Joe's wife.
Joe has two artificial knees and might be the first person with this type of medical hardware to be making a cross-country journey for a cause, she said.
The Kick Start event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon April 20 at Riverside Park in La Grande. The park is on North Spruce Street north of the Grande Ronde River.
Tickets for the pancake breakfast to help raise money for this effort are available at RE/MAX Real Estate Team office, 2106 Island Ave. (next to Bear Mountain Pizza) in LaGrande and, soon, online at Facesforchange.com.
Joe plans to reach Baker City on April 22, if conditions are good. He's said the goal will be to progress 15 to 25 miles each day.
His Baker City itinerary still is being planned, according to Bud Hill, a longtime friend of the Bell family who also serves as president and co-founder of Faces for Change.
The anti-bullying organization was created soon after Jadin died in February.
The board will create a committee to focus on Joe's walking campaign that is separate from fundraising efforts to raise money for speakers, literature and training to stop bullying.
Lathrop and Hill said Joe is going to need plenty of help to make the trip, which could take up to two years.
The route has been getting longer as Joe adds on more locations, such as Idaho and Texas, she said.
Volunteers and donations are still sorely needed.
This includes people to walk along with Joe.
And it will be important to obtain help from people along his route - a circuitous trip now estimated to total about 6,000 miles.
They would arrange for places where Joe could visit locals and talk about what happened to Jadin and what bullying can do to those targeted.
Places could include schools, churches, local clubs and media outlets.
He'll also require places to stay overnight as well as an array of other things.
For details, go to the website or call Hill at 541-786-2706.