Fundraiser for Detroit man with marathon commute draws over $226,000

Tue Feb 3, 2015 5:01pm EST
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By Serena Maria Daniels

DETROIT (Reuters) - A factory worker who walks more than 20 miles during his daily commute received more than $226,000 as of Tuesday from people across the country who were touched by his story, according to a fundraising website. said a board of advisers was being formed to help manage the windfall in donations for James Robertson, an injection molder. Evan Leedy, 19, a student at Wayne State University, launched the online fundraiser after he read about Robertson’s exhausting round trip between his home in Detroit and the Schain Mold & Engineering factory in the suburb of Rochester Hills.

Leedy said he did not think his efforts would gain traction and that he would be lucky to raise $500 to help pay bus fare for Robertson.

“Most of the donations have been 20, 25 bucks," Leedy said in an interview on CBS This Morning. “I’ve had a lot of people comment and say, 'You know, this is all I have, I wish I could give more.'"

More than 8,455 people have donated $226,310 as of Tuesday afternoon. Offers for free cars from a Chevrolet dealership and Honda have also come in, according to Leedy’s Facebook page.

The viral fundraiser was prompted by a story that ran in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. The paper said Robertson, 56, takes buses to and from his factory job, but ends up having to walk more than 20 miles round trip since buses do not cover the whole route. He starts his commute at 8 a.m. for his 2-10 p.m. shift, and then does not get home until 4 a.m.

The Free Press said Robertson, who has perfect attendance at his job, has taken this route by bus and foot for the past decade, since his car broke down. Making $10.55 an hour, he told the newspaper he has not been able to afford to save up for another car.

(Reporting by Serena Maria Daniels; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and David Gregorio)