Mark Wahlberg's new film Joe Bell tells the heart-wrenching true tale of one man's crusade against the forces that destroyed his son for being gay.
Quitting his job at a plywood mill, Joe Bell headed out on a planned two-year-long walk in April 2013 from Oregon to New York City where his second of three sons, Jadin, once dreamed of working one day as a photographer or fashion designer.
Two months before his excursion, Jadin died in February 2013 at 15, a few weeks after attempting suicide. Jadin died from injuries suffered during his suicide attempt. Bell said his son had been intensely bullied at school for being gay and on the girl's cheerleading team at La Grande High School in Oregon.
"They ripped him apart," Bell told Salon in 2013 of his son's bullies. "Even when I was in the stands, they made fun of him, called him hateful names. There he was, at the football games, cheering his heart out. But he just got abuse."
Bell told the outlet he "was broken" after Jadin's death. "I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. Nothing. Everything just felt empty to me."
Joe's Walk for Change/Facebook Jadin and Joe Bell
Before his walk, Bell told The Huffington Post that "not doing anything is not acceptable. [Those who watch and do nothing] are just as guilty. They are saying that it is acceptable."
Bell chronicled the trek on Facebook, sharing the stories of those he helped and those who helped him.
"I miss my son Jadin with all my heart and soul," he wrote on Facebook in May 2013. "I know you're with me on this walk."
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Bell had set out with nothing but a three-wheeled pushcart loaded with food and water and a desire to help change the world.
More tragedy struck when, after spending six months walking in the rain, sleeping in ditches and telling his son's story to anyone who would listen, Bell was struck and killed on October 9 by a tractor-trailer on a two-lane road in Colorado.
Before his death, Bell was, by all accounts, a loving father who accepted Jadin after the teenager had come out.
"I was proud of him for it," he told Salon. "For how brave it was, to do that, to be open about his identity In a small town, a town the size of La Grande, what Jadin did took enormous courage. And I'm not just saying that because he was my son. But it destroyed him."
Now, Bell's story—and that of the son he fought so hard for—will be told across movie theaters in the U.S.
Everett Reid Miller and Mark Wahlberg in Joe Bell
Wahlberg, who plays Bell, shared heartwarming messages he'd received from parents of LGBTQ youth praising the film.
"Powerful messages — thank you to Paul and the others tagged who have reached out," Wahlberg wrote in his post's caption. "We love hearing how you've been moved by Joe Bell's mission to honor his son and end bullying."
He ended by asking fans to share their own stories using the hashtag #ThankYouJoeBell.
The movie also stars Reid Miller as Jadin, Connie Britton as Lola, Joe's wife, and Gary Sinise.
Joe Bell is now playing in theaters everywhere.