The Heartwarming Story of James Robertson & The Strangers Who Changed His Life Forever

Robertson walking his 21-mile commute to work. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

James Robertson, 56, makes $10.55/hour working at a manufacturing plant located 23 miles from his home in Detroit. Not a great commute but not the worst either, right? Well imagine if the only way to hold down that job involved walking a round-trip total of 21 miles, five days a week, rain or shine. It may sound crazy or even impossible to most, but that has been Robertson’s daily commute ever since his 1988 Honda Civic broke down a decade ago.

More impressive than Robertson’s physical and mental endurance is his dedication: he has never missed or even been late for a single day of work. For the last ten years, Robertson’s work days have consisted of an 8-hour commute to a factory where he works an 8-hour shift, leaving just a few hours in between for his 56-year old body to rest.

Robertson works as an injection molder at Schain Mold & Engineering. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press


That all changed after Robertson’s miraculous story appeared on the front page of Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. Since then, kind-hearted strangers from all walks of life have joined together to help Robertson rest his weary legs.

It all started with Evan Leedy, a 19-year old college student who created a GoFundMe account with a goal of $5,000; just enough to provide Robertson with enough money for a car that would get him from point A to point B. The $5,000 mark was surpassed in a matter of hours, and after just a few days the account has raised over $311,000.

Despite receiving many offers from generous strangers willing to give him their own car for free, Robertson decided to go car shopping with Blake Pollock, a banker he befriended a year earlier after Pollock began giving Robertson occasional rides to and from work. Pollock had noticed Robertson walking enough times that one day he offered him a lift, which is when he learned of the man’s incredible commute. Pollock had heard Robertson mention a specific vehicle enough times to know the 56-year old had his heart set on a car as modest as the man himself: a burgundy-red, recent model Ford Taurus.

On Friday, Pollock and Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights made that exact wish into a reality. Pollock and Robertson walked into the dealership together but the marathon commuter never had to look around; sitting inside the display room was a fully-loaded, ruby-red 2015 Ford Taurus. The car is valued at $35,215, but Robertson didn’t have to pay a dime for it.

Read here on why Robertson chose the Ford Taurus.

The 2015 Ford Taurus given to Robertson. Photo courtesy of My Fox Philly

There are plans for the donation money to be set aside and managed by an asset management team set up by Pollock. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Pollock gave his professional opinion as to why he thought that was the best move:

“Putting a car in his driveway and just handing James the keys or filling his pockets with cash is not the answer. But with these resources now, we should be able to do something very positive for the guy.”

In a separate interview Pollock seemed to imply that with so much going on and a large sum of money at stake, he didn’t want Robertson’s fortune ending up in the wrong hands:

“We want to make sure that all of the wonderful contributions go to truly benefit James and not get wasted on other things or go to people who want to leech off of him.”

As a vice president at USB, Pollock makes a living managing the money of others, but many are saying the money was meant for Robertson and no one else. Everything else aside, James Robertson can take solace in the fact that he no longer has to make those daunting walks to work, and we should take solace in the fact that there are still a lot of good people left in this world.


Ben Dunham-Kapaldo is a 22-year old senior attending college in Upstate New York. Originally from a small town in Maine, he began his secondary education as a football player in college first and a student in college second. After realizing that wasn't a recipe for success, Ben straightened out his priorities and was recently named to the school's Fall 2014 Dean's List. For the past two years, Ben has contributed articles for the school newspaper and was promoted to an editorial position for the 2014-2015 academic year. After graduation he hopes to work in the research division of an advertising firm or become a full-time journalist.