PORTLAND, Ore. — You may have seen Veronica Gaston moving along Portland's Waterfront Park, with help from her walker.
In between her doctor appointments in Portland, Gaston walks. She has a blood cancer that impacts her health, and walking is good for her. She tracks it with a Fitbit device that her tribal leaders gave her last year.
“At first I was getting maybe 500 steps and I was like 'I gotta beat that' and kept on adding to it, and yesterday I walked 30,000 steps — and translating that, it’s 12.44 miles,” said Gaston on Wednesday.
Gaston's other pastime is collecting bottles and cans where she lives in Grand Ronde, to help her limited income. She had been saving to get a new walker with better wheels.
"And so I’ll be able to go on all surfaces because I want to be able to walk on the beach," said Gaston, "and with this monster you can't, it just sinks.”
With that goal reached and a new walker ordered, she decided to fly the Ukrainian flag from her walker and start helping refugees.
“You see it on the news where these people are suffering, they're hungry, they need medical supplies. And what I’m planning on doing now with the cans and bottles I’m still collecting is to give 75% of those proceeds to help the people in Ukraine,” said Gaston.
Gaston will take advantage of Oregon Bottle Drop's system that makes it easy to donate recycling money to help Mercy Corps with Ukraine relief efforts.
Even if it weren't easy, Gaston would probably do it. This is a woman who has persevered, having previously been homeless for a decade, and with serious health problems.
For seven years she's had a roof over her head and Gaston is actively improving her health. She hopes that others find some inspiration in her story, and her plan to help Ukraine.
“It's so tragic to see all these people hurting and hungry and it’s just not right, what's happening," Gaston said. "I'm hoping other people will step up — if I can get out there and do this with my medical problems ... you know if I can do it, you can do it.”