Thanks to the Internet and an incredible outpouring of generosity from around the world, James Robertson's 21-mile daily commute to work will soon be a thing of the past.
The 56-year-old, profiled late last week in the Detroit Free Press, spends more time walking to his full-time factory job than working — a casualty of both Detroit's costly vehicle insurance rates and the city's limited bus service. Despite the lack of a car for the last decade, he's maintained a perfect attendance record — through wind, heat, rain and snow — at Schain Mold & Engineering. When word spread of his extraordinary daily commute of two buses and 21 miles of walking, the Internet rallied to assist.
One of those touched by the story was 19-year-old Evan Leedy, who decided to start a GoFundMe page for Robertson. His goal was $5,000 to buy Robertson a car and "a few months of insurance payments." As of this evening, that total has skyrocketed to more than $236,000.
"I am so moved by how humble and dedicated Robertson is," wrote one contributor. "I know nothing about him but yet have such a sense of admiration for him that I could only hope to pass on some of his values to my own children."
Others, like Helene Taylor, remember being in a similar situation as Robertson and wanting to help. "Seeing another walker out there has me remember that time two decades ago," she writes. "Now that I'm in a better position I want to pay it forward."
All told, so far more than 8,800 people have donated to help Robertson, with his story going viral all around the world and featured by nearly every major news organization. Local dealerships have also been moved to offer him his choice of a free car, with others willing to cover the insurance.
"I gotta say, this is Detroit, this is how people are in Detroit," Robertson told the Detroit Free Press after learning of the generous offers. "They say Los Angeles is the city of angels. That's wrong. Detroit is the real city of angels."
To help Robertson manage his unexpected windfall, he asked that a board of advisors be organized by friend and banker Blake Pollock. According to the Detroit Free Press, the money will go towards gasoline, maintenance, auto insurance, any future expenses and assistance with medical and dental care.
“He deserves to feel good and he deserves to not to walk 20 plus miles to work,” Pollock told Good Morning America. “We don’t want to change his life. We want to enhance his life.”
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