Former Christian rock star raising funds for orphanage
Christian rock star Steve Wescott strode into Madras June 21, but hardly anyone noticed. Instead, all eyes were on his traveling partner -- "LeeRoy" the goat.
Wescott and LeeRoy were on the 300th mile and 49th day of "hoofing it" from the Seattle Space Needle to New York's Times Square to raise funds to build an orphanage for Uzima Outreach and Intervention in Nairobi, Kenya.
Wescott, 32, said the idea for the trek came after 15 years of playing with New Divide and other Christian bands during several tours of the U.S., Europe and Russia.
"I was trying to be a cool Christian rock star, doing 300 shows a year," he said.
But after all those years, things didn't feel right. He wanted to be doing something that would have a positive impact on the world.
"Sometimes the Christian music scene can be fake," he noted, when it becomes more about the band than the message.
"I feel God was pushing me in a new direction, but I didn't know it," he said, reflecting. He toyed with the idea of working in an orphanage, or some other life-changing venture.
On Dec. 12, 2010, an idea hit him while the band was taking a two-week break from touring. Wescott told the drummer, "When this tour's over, I'm walking across America."
The next day, he went to REI and tried on backpacks. Telling a friend about his plan, he said he wanted to take an animal -- maybe a goat -- for companionship. But that idea was crazy, so he got a rottweiler dog instead.
But the month before he was to leave, the dog pulled ligaments in two legs and couldn't go. So, Wescott looked on Craig's List, where he'd seen information about the New Moon Goat Rescue.
"I hit up goat rescue, and met LeeRoy and it was like destiny. We were just boys right up front," Wescott laughed, adding, "I lived in downtown Seattle, so I had to find a barn for him."
Wescott was also a city boy, who had never camped or owned a goat before. Working with two veterinarians and two pack goat specialists, he learned how to feed and care for the goat.
LeeRoy also learned how to be a city goat. "He will jump in the back of a car, because I don't have a horse trailer," Wescott said.
Wescott continued to search for an orphanage or similar organization to support. "I wanted to team up with somebody. I wanted to believe and be a part of something on a grassroots level," he said.
By coincidence, everything came together when he went to pick up his friend Stephen Turner at the airport. Turner, he discovered, had been working as a missionary in Nairobi, Kenya, and was trying to start an orphanage for street kids.
"I found out Uzima Outreach and Intervention was started by my best friend and I didn't even know it. It was like destiny; God had a plan the whole time and it was perfect," he said.
Selling everything he owned but his guitar and music gear, Wescott gave the funds to the Uzima project and started his adventure on May 2, the 20th anniversary of his dad's passing. "It was a way for my dad to be a part of it," he explained.
A month and a half into the walk, his guitar and gear didn't seem so important anymore, so he sold that, too.
Wescott soon saw the impact of walking with a goat. "If people see a guy walking with a backpack and a dog, they don't take much notice. But with a goat, they turn around and take photos," he laughed.
"I think it's a God thing that my dog got injured. It seems foolish to walk with a goat, but there's a verse that says, `God uses the foolish things to confuse the wise.' There's no way I'd raise the amount I want to without a goat," Wescott said, noting his goal is to raise $200,000 to build the orphanage in Kenya.
As they journey, Wescott carries a 35-pound pack and LeeRoy totes a 20-pound pack. They carry a tent, water, and some food, and rely on the kindness of churches and people they meet along the way for the rest.
When dogs threaten them, Wescott said he yells and kicks and LeeRoy has horns for protection, but he's also carrying bear spray.
Wescott stays connected through his iPhone, has KGW TV in Seattle checking in with him regularly for updates on the road, writes a blog, and can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
He started out with a timeline and route, but cast those aside in favor of other priorities.
"It's about talking to people, not time. The longest we've gone in a day is 20 miles and the shortest is 4 miles. If there's a person to tell the (orphanage) story to, we'll stop," Wescott said of their journey.
Those wanting to follow their trek, donate, or learn more about Uzima Outreach can find information at: www.needle2square.com, needle2square.blogspot.com, or uzimaoutreachandintervention.org.