WASHINGTON, D.C. – Steve Wescott walked north along MD-355 in Montgomery County last week on his way to Times Square as a part of his mission to raise funds for an orphanage in Kenya.
His companion for the journey: a goat named Miles.
After the trip, Wescott plans to take his volunteer staffers to Kenya though he said he would also like a break from being the “goat guy.”
“I need a break. I need to not be the goat guy. The goat guy has no opinions. That’s not me, that’s not who I am. I come down hard on things. I’m opinionated. I like a cigar and a good beer, which would get me in trouble as the goat guy,” Wescott said. “Being a leader, I’ve had to grow into the leadership role. So it is what it is.”
Wescott said he didn’t want to go across the country by himself. He began to search on Craigslist for a rescue animal he could bring along.
At first, he found a 10-month-old Rottweiler named Louie.
However, after Louie has injured one of his paws, doctors told Wescott he wouldn’t be able to take him.
Once again, Wescott viewed Craigslist to search for other possibilities and stumbled across New Moon Goat Rescue in the state of Washington.
“My first thought was, ‘Who abandons goats enough to where you need a rescue?’” Wescott said.
Originally from Seattle, Wescott had always known for a long time that he would walk across America. Though there he didn’t have a plan, he said he knew it was his purpose.
“I just knew. I couldn’t deny what was happening,” Wescott said.
However, Wescott said he needed a reason to walk and he didn’t want it to be about himself or any personal gain.
“I didn’t want it to be about me. I wanted to be an ambassador for something I believed in,” Wescott said.
His journey began after his band kicked him out due to not getting along.
Wescott said after he had talked with an old friend, Stephen Turner, or “ST,” who was serving as a missionary in Kenya.
After hearing about the orphanage ST was putting together, which is called Uzima, Wescott partnered up with Needle2Square, a charity group ST started.
“Really it’s about loyalty to my friend. As long as he’s in, I’m in. That’s just how it is,” Wescott said.
Wescott started his walk on May 2, 2012 from the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington, with LeeRoy Brown, his first alpine goat, who died in October from patients feeding him too much bread during one of Wescott’s visits.
A week later, Wescott was back on the road with his new friend, another alpine goat named Miles.
So far, Wescott’s journey has led people to donate up to a total of $100,000.
He has traveled through 13 states including, Ohio, Kentucky, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Maryland. He said by the time he reaches the end of his trip, he will have traveled through 15 states.
However, Wescott doesn’t take credit for the donations. He said all he did was share the stories from Kenya and the reasons why he is walking.
“That $100,000 is not something that I raised. It’s something that people gave, there’s a difference. I didn’t raise the money, people gave the money,” Wescott said.
During the course of the walk, Wescott has visited jails, volunteered at shelters and has spread the word about ST’s work and raising funds for the orphanage.
Wescott’s project manager since 2014, Jenny Salk said planning the events is easier now. She said community members often call their local news stations about him.
“I try to use to use as many mediums to get the word out. Usually when he’s already in that area it doesn’t take too long for the word to get out” Salk said.
Salk also said Wescott talks about different aspects of the project depending on the audience.
If he is talking about to a church group, for instance, he’ll talk about faith.
“It depends on each organization. It depends on what it is. It’s just tailored to whatever the audience is. The whole purpose is to tell about Uzima,” Salk said.
Community members also organized their own events for Wescott to appear in, such as yard sales or bake sales. Salk said community members often contact them through social media and ask for Wescott to appear or do a “meet and greet” at these events.
“(We have) a wide variety of supporters who have caught the vision and they want to do whatever they can to raise support for Uzima,” Salk said.
Wescott, who prefers cities to the countryside, said he chose Times Square as his final destination because he thought that it was the “hangout spot” and he didn’t want to be so isolated at the end of his travels.
“I’ve kind of always had this vibe about it. It felt like a spot, it felt like a Starbucks to me. Times Square feels like a Starbucks,” Wescott said.
He also mentioned how he’s run into people who often think he is homeless and feel bad for him not having a place to stay throughout his journey.
However, he considers himself the most “blessed, well-fed, homeless guy in Amercia.”
“I get to experience the kindness of America like no one else does. It’s a unique thing. In fact I’ve gotten fatter from walking across America because people want to feed you so much,” Wescott said.
Wescott also said people have given him several gift cards to restaurants including Subway, Starbucks and Potbelly. Some people have also given him airline miles for his trips to Kenya.
He said he used these resources to raise awareness.
According to Wescott, Needle2Square bought two acres of land to add on to the orphanage. Once they finish establishing the orphanage, Wescott said they plan to open a hospital and a school.
Wescott said he hopes to finish his walk by the first week in October. His long term goal is to establish a strong foundation for anyone who will run Needle2Square in the future to “take it to the next level.”
“I really hope that people get that ‘If a guy with a goat can do this, then me with my many resources and much bigger brain and charm and personality can do way more,’” Wescott said.
“I think that the reality is that I was just walking with a goat. That’s all I did, and there are people that have much better talents than that, much, much, better talents than that that could a whole lot more than I can.”