An Oregon man who was walking across the country to raise awareness for bullying died Oct. 9 when he was hit by a semitrailer in eastern Colorado.
Joe Bell of La Grande. Ore., was traveling by foot on a journey that was planned to take him through Wichita, down to Dallas and across the south to Jacksonville before heading north along the Atlantic Coast to New York City.
His goal was to better the fight against bullying after his 15-year old son, Jadin, took his own life earlier this year. Jadin faced nearly a year of bullying at his school and online after announcing he was gay.
Bell left Oregon on April 20th and had recently stopped in Denver. He was heading towards the Kansas border on eastbound Highway 40 in Cheyenne County, approximately 20 miles northwest of Kit Carson. Colorado State Patrol believes Kenneth Raven, 49, reportedly fell asleep behind the wheel of the semi and veered onto the shoulder where the 48-year old Bell was walking.
Raven was uninjured in the accident and was cited for careless driving resulting in death.
Bell’s death Wednesday evening was announced on his Facebook page — Joe’s Walk for Change — to the shock of the thousands who liked and supported Bell’s journey.
His website released the following statement to confirm his death:
“Friends and supporters,
We are sad to share that the recent news of Joe’s passing is true. Joe was supported by a number of people, across a number of states. Please be patient with us as we come together, and allow the family time to process this difficult tragedy.
We will update you as we have updates. Thank you for your support.”
Bell’s mission according to his website:
“Joe set off on foot across the United States after losing his son, Jadin, to suicide. Jadin was bullied relentlessly for being gay, both in school and online. After this terrible loss Joe figured he had two choices, lay down and give up or stand up and walk. Follow Joe on his journey across the United States as he changes the way people communicate, ends the stigma of suicide and fights for equal rights for everyone.”
New York was the final destination of Bell’s trek because that is where Jadin eventually wanted to live. According to the website, Jadin felt that “he would be accepted and happy there.”
Bell has three additional children: a daughter, Amber Lynn, and two sons, Dustin and Joseph Jr.
—This story was written and compiled by Beau Tiongson