Tragedy as grieving father is killed by truck on cross-country walk commemorating gay son

Oregonian Joe Bell had been due to speak against homophobic bullying that evening

A father who set out on a journey across America in memory of his gay son’s suicide was killed by a truck on Wednesday night.

Joe Bell, whose openly homosexual son Jadin killed himself in January, shortly after telling his school that he was being bullied, died after being hit by a semi. Police believe that the driver, might have fallen asleep at the wheel.  

Joe, who was 48 and from La Grande in Oregon, set out on his journey in April as a way of coping with his grief, on a mission to combat homophobic bullying. He had planned to spend two years walking across the US, speaking at schools and youth groups on behalf of Faces for Change, an anti-bullying charity founded in his son’s name. He was due to address a youth group in Hugo, Colorado, that very night.

15-year-old Jadin hit the news earlier this year, when he suffered brain damage while attempting to hang himself at his school La Grande on 19 January. He had suffered horrific bullying for his open sexuality, both at school and on social media.

“He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones,” family friend Bud Hill told KOMO News at the time.

"My son didn't choose to be gay. My son was different at a very young age," said Joe at a talk in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on 1 August. "He told his family he was gay because he knew they would accept him. I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek every day. I was proud of him."

A statement posted at facesforchange.com read: “We're all shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of Joe Bell. Condolences have been pouring in from all over the US and Europe this morning. Joe's mission was one of love that was bigger than he was (and bigger than any one organization). His purpose was - and always will be - to ensure that the choices faced by his son Jadin will never be visited upon another young person.”

The driver of the truck was Kenneth Raven, 49, of Bryan, Texas. Colorado police confirmed that he has been cited for careless driving resulting in death.

Joe’s Walk for Change page had around 4,000 likes on Facebook on Thursday; it has now shot up to over 9,000.

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