OGDEN -- Sitting at a booth during the lunch rush at Lucky Slice in downtown Ogden, Joe Bell pulls out his cellphone, looks at the screen and begins to cry.
He doesn't look like the type of man who can be easily brought to tears. A thin gray goatee covers his chin below an American flag baseball cap pulled low over his face.
His forearms and any skin not shaded by the hat betray the past two months and 500 miles of high desert sun between La Grande, Ore., and Northern Utah.
Looking back from his cellphone are two smiling teenage boys. On the left is Joe's 13-year-old son, Joseph, and with an arm around Joseph is Jadin, Joe's middle son.
It has been just more than four months since Jadin committed suicide.
After a few seconds, Joe Bell puts the phone back in his pocket, steps outside, grabs his backpack and cart and heads east on 25th Street, starting the 49th day of his walk across the country.
This is how Joe hopes to honor Jadin and to raise awareness about bullying and youth suicide.
The night of his 48th day of his walk, Joe gathered with 30 strangers in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden. He was there as a guest of the OUTreach Resource Center, a community center and support group for LGBT teens and young adults.
As he filled his plate at the potluck table, OUTreach members alternated between joking with friends and sharing stories at the microphone of bullying in their own lives.
Like every stop between northern Oregon and here, Joe Bell was at OUTreach to share Jadin's story.
Joe and his wife raised three sons and a daughter in La Grande, a town of 13,000 in northeastern Oregon. When Jadin, the second oldest, came out to his family as gay during his freshman year of high school, Joe took the news with little surprise.
"I knew he was different at a very young age," Joe said. "We love our children, and we raised our children to love who they are."
While Joe raised his kids with a passion for activities like hunting, Jadin came to his dad during his sophomore year to tell him he wanted to start cheerleading.
"I just about fell out of my chair," Joe said.
Despite the surprise, Joe says he never wavered in supporting his son.
Despite the backing at home, things got worse for Jadin when football season started and he was cheering on the sidelines every Friday night.
From the stands, Joe saw the harassment that others dealt out to Jadin. Joe also says he knew that it was worse when Dad wasn't in the stands.
"I just watched him deteriorate," Joe said.
It was around this time that Jadin began counseling to deal with depression. And back in Ogden, it is around this point in the story when tears appear in Joe's eyes.
For six months, Jadin slowly improved, but the harassment and bullying at school continued. In Joe's view, the school did little to address the issue, even after meeting with staff.
"Our school and administration do not know how to deal with the bullying problem," Joe said.
On Jan. 19, at age 15, Jadin attempted to take his own life. Discovered by first responders, he was taken across the state to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, where he stayed for just more than two weeks.
Jadin died Feb. 3.
Jadin's story is one that many at OUTreach can relate to. When Joe finished speaking Thursday evening, students in the room shared their own stories of being bullied at school and at home.
One spoke of how he was beaten and verbally abused by family members when he came out.
As he finished his story, the young man met with Joe in the corner for a long hug. As the two of them shared tears, Joe offered what consolation he could.
"You're a good man," Joe told the young man. "Know inside yourself that it's gonna be OK."
The moment was one repeated throughout the evening with other teens and young adults.
Eighty percent of the people coming to OUTreach don't have a supportive adult like Joe at home, said Marian Edmonds, the center's executive director.
Throughout the nation, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teens and young adults.
In Utah, it is the second-leading cause.
The long walk
Joe was at a loss after Jadin died.
"I was lying in bed after my son's death, wanting to die myself, feeling like I failed as a father," he said.
At the time, he thought back to an eighth-grade trip that Jadin had taken to New York City. It was a vacation Joe describes as the highlight of Jadin's life and the start of a dream to attend college in New York.
Lying there in bed, Joe came up with the idea for the cross-country walk.
"It was either give up or fight back. I'm a fighter."
For several months, Joe trained and made plans for the trip. With the help of Bud Hill, a family friend in La Grande, and other community members, the Bells founded Faces for Change. The organization seeks to educate others about harassment and bullying and is supporting Joe throughout the walk.
Joe sees his trip as not only a time to memorialize his son, but also as a way to instigate the difficult conversations on combating teen suicide and homophobia.
While he's received support -- all of his shoes are donated, and he carries a book of encouraging notes from people he meets on the road -- he has also received backlash.
North of Tremonton, a Catholic bishop stopped to offer a ride. After discussing his trip, the bishop left him with a pamphlet on "the sin" of the gay lifestyle.
These conversations seem to hit Joe the hardest.
A proud Christian, he travels with a notebook emblazoned with a large cross on the cover and Bible verses on every page. Yet, when Faces for Change was planning a pancake breakfast and trying to find a place to hold the send-off party, three churches turned down the organization before the event was moved to a local park.
Still, when someone warned Joe of areas in Utah where he might experience the worst homophobia, he replied that this is exactly where he wanted to stop.
Next: Salt Lake City
After strapping everything down on his cart in downtown Ogden, Joe puts on his sunglasses and heads down Historic 25th Street. At Union Station, he turns south on Wall Avenue and begins a two-day trek to Salt Lake City.
His family will meet him in the city, where he will relax for several days, replace some broken equipment and look for a foot massage.
From there, he'll begin his walk to Denver.
From Denver to Kansas.
From Kansas to New York City.
Along his walk, Bell will be making updates to the Facebook page JoesWalkForChange.
Learn more about Jadin and Faces for Change at www.facesforchange.com.