In Oregon, KATU reports on the attempted suicide of 15-year-old Jadin Bell, who was not expected to live after hanging himself. His family said he was the target of anti-gay bullying. Through Skype on Monday, Bud Hill shared what he admires about Jadin Bell, the son of a family friend who is so close that Hill considers Jadin his nephew. "If someone was down and out he would walk into a room and say a couple quick words and everybody would just forget about their problems and smile. He just had a gift," Hill said. Saturday, January 19, he came to the playground of Central Elementary School in La Grande. He climbed on a play structure and hanged himself. Someone passing by tried to rescue him. He was brought to Portland and Doernbecher Children's Hospital where he was put on life support. Hill says Jadin was pushed to suicide after being bullied in person and on the Internet for being gay. "He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones," Hill said. Hill says Jadin asked his parents to home school him. He feared turning in the bullies would make things worse. But he had found the courage, recently. The school district says it was in the process of investigating when Jadin tried to end his life. At Doernbecher, doctors detected little brain activity and Jadin was removed from life support over the weekend. His family is by his side. "It's tough enough to deal with what you know is coming up, but the waiting is not good," Hill said. The superintendent in La Grande says everyone there is heartbroken. He's asked a mental health agency to look at how the school deals with these issues to see if there’s a better way to handle it. Hill is vowing to start a new organization in Jadin's honor to tackle these issues.
The La Grande Observer reported that on Wednesday, January 23, close to 200 people (the majority of who were LHS students) attended a vigil for Jadin. “We are overwhelmed. We are very thankful for all of the support,” said Bud Hill of La Grande, a close friend of Bell’s family. The vigil, organized by LHS students, was held at the Art Center at the Old Library and ran more than 90 minutes. It ended only after those attending were told that they had to leave because the building had to be closed. Numerous friends and classmates spoke about Bell in heartfelt tones, painting a portrait of a young man who has an uncommon way of lifting the spirits of others. “Jadin is one of the best people I have ever met. He makes everyone around him feel good all the time,” said LHS junior Frankie Benitez. She said Bell is someone who never forgets his friends. “Jadin always remembers people no matter what,” Benitez said. “If I felt bad, I would hang out with him and he would say something small like, ‘I love your sweater.’ He notices things you didn’t think anyone notices.” Another girl described Jadin as the sweetest boy she had ever met. She recalled that when she transferred to LHS, Bell was the first person she did not know to talk to her. He praised her on her appearance, picking up her spirits enormously. Candy Blackman, an LHS parent who attended the vigil, offered a similar perspective. “He always gives a compliment to everybody the first time he meets them,” Blackman said. “He always has a smile on his face.” Bell is a member of the LHS cheerleading team, and, Blackman said, cheerleading fits his outgoing, colorful personality. “Cheerleading is his passion,” Blackman said. Jody Bullock, a close family friend, described Bell as a gentle, caring person, one who has been this way since childhood. “He is amazingly sensitive. If he saw a wounded butterfly (as a child) he wanted to heal it,’’ Bullock said. Bullock runs an adult assisted living home for seniors. She said Bell came over frequently and always made a point of saying hello to her residents and talking with them. Bullock said it is unusual for young people to do this, noting that often young people are afraid of seniors. He is an amazing young man who is smart and very social,” Bullock said. Bullock said that when Bell is involved in something he has a way of getting other people to join in. “He has a persona and a presence that you want to be a part of,” she said. Bell has a talent for connecting with a wide array of people. This was evident at the vigil, which was attended by people from all portions of LHS and even La Grande Middle School. Many signed and created cards for Bell, which have been sent to him. Nearly fifty printouts of large photos of Bell were displayed on a wall at the vigil, many capturing his warm, colorful personality in poses with friends. Once it was announced the photos were available to everyone they were gone in minutes. Bell has been hospitalized since being found Saturday afternoon hanging from an apparatus at the Central Elementary School playground. He was saved by a fast-responding passerby and taken to Grande Ronde Hospital. Bell was then flown to Oregon Health Science University and is now in the intensive care unit at the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Bell is the son of Lola Lathrop and Joe Bell. Lathrop said Thursday morning by phone from Portland she was heartened to hear of the outpouring of support for Jadin at the vigil and the many people who spoke of his personal qualities. “We always knew that Jadin is a special person. Now everyone knows,” Lathrop said.