Detroit man with marathon walking commute surprised with new car

Fri Feb 6, 2015 4:00pm EST
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By Serena Maria Daniels

(Reuters) - A Detroit factory worker who has walked more than 20 miles (32 km) during his daily commute to work for a decade was surprised on Friday with a brand new car, donated by a suburban car dealership.

The unexpected gift is the latest in an outpouring of donations from supporters across the globe who, touched by James Robertson's plight, have raised more than $310,000 to help him buy a car.

Robertson has told the Detroit Free Press that his car broke down a decade ago and, making $10.55 an hour, he has been unable to save for a new one.

"I don't like it, I love it," said Robertson, 56, who appeared baffled as he sat behind the wheel of his 2015 red Ford Taurus. "If only my parents could see me now."

Robertson thought he was going to look at cars to purchase with Evan Leedy and Blake Pollock, who both helped coordinate the gift, worth an estimated $37,000.

Instead Robertson was greeted by reporters and a team of supporters who first learned of his marathon commute this week in a story that ran in the Sunday Detroit Free Press.

The story has since been widely shared on social media, and Robertson has been featured on national network news programs. The publicity has prompted a renewed discussion about reforming Metro Detroit's troubled public transportation system.

Leedy, 19, a student at Wayne State University, launched an online fundraiser after he read about Robertson's daily trek between his home in Detroit and the Schain Mold & Engineering factory in the suburb of Rochester Hills.   Continued...

Detroit resident James Robertson reacts next to the 2015 red Ford Taurus sedan he was surprised with as a free gift at the Suburban Ford dealership in Sterling Heights, Michigan, February 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook