Donations reach nearly $300,000 for man who walks 21 miles a day

James Robertson says never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined this.

It all started with a story in Sunday's Detroit Free Press - and has blossomed into an international phenomenon. What started as a fundraising effort to collect $15,000 for a new car - has turned into nearly $300,000 dollars raised. 

Donations poured in, all because of the humble factory worker from Detroit and the almost-marathon walk he makes to get to and from his job in Rochester Hills - every single day -  Monday through Friday for 10 years.

"I am just really so surprised by this," Robertson said.

Evan Leedy is a 19-year-old college student at Wayne State University who didn't know James - but knew he wanted to help. He started the GoFundMe account - that went viral.

"It just was amazing to me this guy doesn't have a car and he has such a long commute and he walks the whole way," Leedy said. "We had donations from Russia, Australia, Macedonia, Italy, France and the United Kingdom."

"It's amazing to see these strangers who've never met James, they've only seen him through these stories. And they're so willing to help."

Blake Pollock can't believe it either - so often while driving he saw James walking. So a year and a half ago, he started picking him up - giving him a ride.

The two became friends and Blake shared the story with the paper - never expecting the outpouring of support would be like this. 

"It was fun for me, interesting for me," Blake said. "Now everybody agrees, James is a cool guy and it is a neat story." 

James says he's overwhelmed and forever grateful for all this support. But he's also happy that his story has shed some light on the Detroit metropolitan area's poor public transportation system. 

One that he says leaves a lot of people just like him, walking a long way to make ends meet.

"Maybe it gets them to open their eyes and say hey, there's a problem and. we need to fix it," he said.

But now he can afford to get a vehicle. You might be wondering what kind of car James plans to buy - a Ford Taurus. And it is for reasons that make a lot of sense to a man like James.

"They do look dull on the outside but really strong on the inside," he said. "And that probably describes me best."

Suffice it to say - Ford Motor Company couldn't pay for publicity like this.

All from a man who says what he means and means what he says - and shows up to work on time - every single day.

"Even when I step in the car," he said. "It reminds me of where I came from and where I've been."

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