Detroit's 'walking man' surprised with new car, ending his 33km commute
The story of a Detroit man who walks more than 30 kilometres each day to get to and from work has prompted an outpouring of support and donations, including a new car.
The international media picked up James Robertson’s story, after it came to light just how far the Detroit native hikes each day.
Robertson relied on buses to get to his job at a parts factory in suburban Rochester Hills after his car broke down 10 years ago. But because of cuts to service, the buses don't cover his entire route. So, the 56-year-old would have to walk about 12 kilometres before his shift started, and about 20 kilometres after his shift ended to make up the shortfall.
Despite the lengthy commute, and getting only about two hours of sleep per night, Robertson has had perfect attendance for more than 12 years.
Robertson credits his upbringing for giving him the determination to hit the ground each day.
"It goes back to my parents," he told CTV's Canada AM. "They've always had me working, they've always taught me determination and faith, and just enjoying what you're doing no matter what the obstacles are."
And it was Robertson's quiet determination that eventually caught the attention of local banker Blake Pollock.
Pollock noticed Robertson crossing through his office parking lot each day, and finally stopped to offer him a ride when he saw him climbing over a snow bank one day.
During their occasional rides together, Robertson slowly began to share his story with Pollock.
Pollock said he was surprised Robertson was able to remain positive despite the great distance he walked just to get to work.
"I thought 'This guy must be really depressed, he's out there in the horrible weather all the time, walking all this way,' but that wasn't the way that it was," he said. "He just talked about how he couldn't imagine that there were people who were able to work but just didn't go… I just found that so fascinating."
Pollock decided to bring Robertson's story to the media, in the hopes that something could be done to help him.
Soon offers of support began to pour in, including the creation of a crowdfunding campaign that's pulled in more than $350,000 in donations for Robertson.
The page was started by Wayne State University student Evan Leedy. The 19-year-old said on the page that the flood of donations has restored his faith in humanity.
Then, over the weekend, the owner of a local car dealership gave Robertson a new Ford Taurus.
Robertson said people often ask him why he didn't just move closer to his work to cut down on how far he had to walk. He says he always tells them the same thing.
"I just couldn't imagine leaving the city," he said. "I could adjust to the buses, but as far as Detroit – I've been a life-long Detroiter… I wouldn't change that for anything."