Imagination is a powerful thing. It can transport us anywhere, especially when real life is less than ideal. For D23 Member Paul Bottos, the world of Mickey Mouse helped him through some tough times growing up. “I came from a very dysfunctional family,” explains Paul, “[and] from the young age of 11, I was placed in many foster or ‘group’ homes until I was 18 years old. I think I went to 24 different schools before I was in Grade 9.”

When the opportunity to move out on his own presented itself, Paul took on the challenge—but he wasn’t without support, even if it came from a beloved animated character. “I was always fascinated with Mickey, ever since I was a young boy,” Paul says. “When I was in my 20s, I started going out to garage sales and antique shows… [one time,] I saw a little plastic Mickey Mouse, and it reminded me of my childhood… memories of the good stuff children think about when things go bad.” The memories were so powerful that be began to collect all things Mickey—and now, 30 years later, he’s amassed a large (and very impressive) collection! He calls the room where he keeps all his treasures his very own Walt Disney World: “If I lived closer to one of the Disney theme parks, I would be there every day too,” he admits.

Paul’s Mickey Mouse collection has brought joy to his life, and given him hope for a brighter future despite his difficult past. “It just makes me feel good inside and I try and share it with all,” Paul says. And to think it all started with a mouse…

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