Paul Bottos didn’t have much of a childhood. He grew up in what he calls a “dysfunctional” family — constantly moving around, attending 17 different schools before even starting high school — and then wound up in group homes and foster care by the time he was 13. As a teen, he took part in a riot at his school and wound up spending six months in prison.
It wasn’t until connecting with Mickey Mouse that Bottos, of Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada, found himself “able to live a childhood I never had.” He was in his 20s at the time.
“My wife was collecting Beanie Babies, and I picked up this Mickey Mouse and thought, ‘Oh, it would be nice to have some more of these. I could start doing that,’” the recently retired manager of a psychiatric hospital for troubled youth tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
So Bottos started collecting and hasn’t stopped, now sharing space with nearly 10,000 items, from the 1930s through today — Funko Pops, tiny figurines, and a room full of hundreds of plush Mickey dolls. “I’ve probably spent $60,000 to $100,000 over my lifetime,” he says, also pointing out three Mickey Mouse-themed tattoos on his arms. “For me, this is my focus in life.”
When it was time to turn his life around, Bottos explains, that’s when he found the classic Disney character. “Mickey saved my life. I know he saved my life,” he says. “He’s made me a better person. I think a lot of times he gave me focus and something to look forward to, and it was always an adventure.”
There was a time when Bottos thought of retiring from his Mickey obsession — just over a decade ago, when he came close to selling the entire collection to the owner of a toy museum. But his son Dakota, now 22, was “adamant” about him keeping everything, he says. That’s because ever since Dakota’s mother — Bottos’ wife — passed away when Dakota was only 5, it was “me and him.” And collecting was something that they’d shared together — to the point where it has inspired Dakota to start a spin-off collection of his own: of “Walking Dead” ephemera.
That’s something Bottos is all for.
“If you collect something or enjoy something,” he advises, “as long as it’s not detrimental to you or causes difficulty to other people, then I think people should go towards those things, and surround themselves with it.”
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