Man and goat raising money for orphanage

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Steve Wescott and his traveling companion LeeRoy Brown, a goat, stayed at the Dixie Chopper Hotel during a short stop during their trip across the country. Wescott is representing his cause with the hashtag #N2S on his hat. (Banner Graphic/Sabrina Westfall)

A man and his conversation-starting goat are crashing at the Dixie Chopper Hotel in Greencastle for a couple of days.

Steven Wescott said while the goat, affectionately called LeeRoy Brown, cannot actually talk, he has started a lot of conversations about their journey to raise money for an orphanage in Kenya.

The 35-year-old from Spokane, Wash., said his and LeeRoy's journey from the "Needle 2 Square" is just a small part of the story, as they make way from the Space Needle in Seattle to Times Square in New York.

Steve Wescott (right) and LeeRoy, his goat companion, did not plan on stopping in Greencastle on their trek across country. But, when Nate O'Hair (left) and fiance Chelsea Hillburn saw him walking along U.S. 40 over the weekend, they stopped to invite him into the city. (Submitted photo)

Wescott's best friend, Steve Turner, started an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. As a way to help raise funds for the more than 40 youth living in the orphanage, Wescott started his trek across the country to raise funds and awareness for the organization.

"We are trying to raise money to buy a farm so we can be as self-sufficient as possible, and not have to rely completely on donations," Wescott explained Tuesday morning.

He continued with a laugh, "It's like a bad joke. Two guys named Steve and a goat walk into a country and start an orphanage."

The nonprofit organization through which Turner runs the orphanage is called Uzima Outreach. Wescott noted Uzima means life in Swahili.

"I support my best friend. I try and take as much financial responsibility I can think of off his plate. I try to raise awareness and raise support so no one forgets about what is going on over there, so it makes his job just that much easier over there. I feel lucky to be able to support him ... I've committed to them. When the farm's going, we are going to get a school. This is lifelong. When the school is built, maybe a hospital? Then it's mentoring the next person that takes this over," Wescott said.

"My life's work is this. Walking across America is just step one."

The orphanage started as a two-bedroom house with 40 children, and were eventually able to grow it into a five-bedroom house. Recently, Uzima Outreach was able to build a boys' dormitory on a half-acre of land in Nairobi. The piece of land is being rented, and by starting the farm the group can raise money and teach necessary skills to the youth.

"We want to create a self-sustaining project that also gives back to the community and is able to making income for itself, feed our kids and teach our kids skills, teach them how to farm themselves and give them the skills in order to be successful in life, which I think you can get from farming and agricultural life," Wescott explained.

Indiana Conservation Officer Chris Springstun shared the information he learned about Steve Wescott with friends Friday night, which prompted Nate O'Hair and Chelsea Hillburn to stop and talk to Wescott on the side of the road. (Submitted photo)

As Wescott and LeeRoy make their way across the country, they tell the story of Uzima Outreach and the children they are representing. Along the way people have made donations to the cause, but he stressed the journey is not about seeking handouts.

"I'm just going to walk from city to city to tell the story. It's not about soliciting money, it's about telling the story and letting people be a part of that. Being a Christian, we don't rely on money. We rely on God. God is going to inspire those people to a part or not be a part," Wescott said.

Wescott started his journey May 2, 2012. What was supposed to be a nine-month journey cross country with a dog, turned into a three-year long trip with a goat. Unfortunately, before he was able set out the dog was injured and unable to start the walk along with him.

"There was an ad on Craig's List that said it (LeeRoy) was a pack animal. What the ad forgot to mention is they (goats) are slow as a turtle," Wescott said.

He did not expect the slow animal to be the biggest inspiration for telling the story of Uzima Outreach. People will stop and ask questions about LeeRoy Brown, and often times those questions spark a conversation about their mission. Talking and making friends along the way has helped raise some money for the initiative.

People are encouraged to go online and make a donation at www.needle2square.com to help Uzima Outreach, but more often those people would rather hand him a few dollars during his travels.

"People would much rather give me $2 or $5 and take a picture with us," Wescott explained, noting every little bit helps.

"If it's a dollar or a quarter, it doesn't matter to me. I'm going to give 100 percent of my attention and time to the people in front of me. God will bring the people that want to give."

He said one of the most important parts of his journey is to spread the joy that comes along with helping inspire these youth to live a better life. Too often people will see sad commercials on television and donate out of guilt. Uzima Outreach wants to focus on the happiness associated with what they are doing.

"I want to out-care every organization. You see those commercials with the saddest kid, and you just want to cry and throw money at the TV because you feel guilty or ashamed. That's not how it's supposed to be. Giving -- it says in the Bible -- that it is better to give than to receive. We are supposed to feel good about giving, not feel so horrible that we didn't give," Wescott said.

"For us, the idea is to show pictures of our kids happy. We have a couple pictures from where the kids come from, but we don't exploit those. Usually when I do speaking events or on our social media, most of the pictures you see the kids are happy. They are playing and having fun because we are getting them out of the slums. One of our kids, his name is Beckham, he was one of the early kids -- one of the first five -- he was like 23rd in his class and now he is like third or fourth in his class."

Wescott said Greencastle was not originally one of his planned stops, but Chelsea Hillburn and her fiancÚ Nate O'Hair saw him walking on U.S. 40. They had heard about Wescott's journey from Conservation Officer Chris Springstun at a bonfire Friday night.

Hillburn's mother is a manager at the Dixie Chopper Hotel, so they offered the pair a place to stay for a couple of nights.

Wescott said the local hospitality has been an inspiration as well. The smaller cities and towns, such as Greencastle, have been overwhelmingly hospitable and supportive of his journey.

To keep up with Wescott and LeeRoy's journey, visit www.needle2square.com or follow them on social media by searching Needle2Square on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They can also be found by searching the hashtag #N2S.

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