Purchase photos

A man, a goat, a mission

9/20/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

This is a story about a guy and a goat walking across America.

But it's more than that. Much more.

Steve Wescott was walking Thursday morning along Old U.S. Highway 40 west of Hays with his goat, LeeRoy Brown. Wescott stopped in Hays, where he will stay for a few days before continuing his journey.

Wescott, 34, who likes to wear an old Seattle Mariners baseball cap, departed at the Space Needle in Seattle on May 2, 2012. After taking a break during the winter, Wescott resumed his journey and hopes to make it to Times Square in New York City sometime next year.

It's about the journey and what it means to Wescott.

"I didn't want to put a do-gooder stamp on this walk across America," Wescott said over lunch Thursday at JD's Chicken.

"I really wanted it to stand for something," Wescott said.

Wescott, along with his friend, Steve Turner, helped co-found an orphanage a few years ago in Nairobi, Kenya. They started in humble surroundings -- barely a shelter -- with 15 kids. They now have 34 children rescued from the slums of Nairobi, living together in a small house donated by another co-founder.

Wescott's goal is to raise enough money to sustain the orphanage for 10 years. He decided to walk across America to publicize his goal and to raise money along the way.

"It's really less about me, less about the goat; it's more about what's happening in Africa," he said. "That is the true heart behind this project.

"It's really got nothing to do about a guy and a goat walking across America. That is the vehicle to get the message out."

Wescott, who plays guitar, had been involved with different bands and had some big gigs. But when his last band kicked him out a few years ago, he decided to walk across America for a cause near and dear to his heart.

His original traveling companion was going to be a Rottweiler, who he trained to walk beside him without a leash.

But approximately a month before they were to depart from the West Coast, the dog hurt his leg while playing in the park and couldn't make the trip.

Then Wescott had the idea of a goat.

Wescott found a rescue shelter for goats advertised on Craigslist and made the trip to take a look.

"My first thought was who was abandoning goats enough that you would need a goat rescue," Wescott said.

But there he met LeeRoy, whose name really was Popsicle when he first met the goat.

"I couldn't deal with that name," Wescott said. "I'm not going to be walking across America going, 'Here, Popsicle.' I needed it to be somewhat manly."

Wescott and LeeRoy hit it off immediately.

"The lady introduces me to LeeRoy, and it was like destiny," Wescott said. "He was super friendly. I was super afraid of his horns, but he didn't horn me; he didn't hurt me. I would call, and he would come to me. It was like super cool."

Wescott, who believes in staying positive, also is cool with the possibility of not making it all the way to Times Square.

"I truly believe that often times we don't do things because we have a lot of 'no' people in our lives," he said. "They give you all the reasons why not to do it. So I effectively surrounded myself with 'yes' people.

"I'm not going to say I'm going to succeed; I might fail. But they'll tell me, 'Try it.' Even if I don't make it all the way across, that'll be a hard thing to take, but I don't think it will be a failure."

Wescott relies on the kindness of strangers along the way. If he's not camping, people will offer to let him sleep in their homes. His mantra of things will find a way to work out was on display over lunch, where one woman walked over and gave him $10 for the cause.

* * *

To make a donation to the orphanage, go to needle2square.com or to uzimaoutreach.org.