Byline: Ellie Oleson
COLUMN: TELEGRAM & GAZETTE SANTA
Life changed for Steven Russell Bott when an industrial accident left the former Millbury High School basketball star paralyzed on the right side; but one thing that has never changed is his generosity and his ability to inspire.
Mr. Bott is one of the largest individual donors to the Telegram & Gazette Santa Fund. This year, he donated $3,300 "in lieu of cards, flowers and gifts for my family and friends, and also in honor of all MIA's and POW's. Steve Bott SRB33."
For years, he donated to the Santa Fund under the listing "SRB33," his initials plus former Celtics great Larry Bird's jersey number.
Mr. Bott's mother, Christine A. Bott of Millbury said. "He's always loved children. He loves his nieces and nephews and his friends' children."
She said that her son donated to the T&G Santa in honor of his family and friends this year "because he knows his friends don't have great need, and others do, especially this year."
Soon after making his donation, Mr. Bott left for Florida, where he is vacationing with his lifelong pen pal from Finland.
Mr. Bott was once a star athlete, who helped lead the Millbury High basketball team to the state finals in 1986. After graduation, he considered going right into the military, but decided to work at Norton Co. in Worcester to earn some money before enlisting.
On Oct. 26, 1990, he fell 50 feet from scaffolding at work. He suffered severe brain and spinal cord injuries that left him in a coma for six weeks. When he finally began to regain consciousness, his family realized he was paralyzed on his right side. He was unable to speak for six weeks, but slowly recovered.
After years of rehabilitation, he drives a car with modified steering and acceleration and has spent many hours volunteering at Elmwood Street School and coaching youth basketball.
"He loves working with kids," Mrs. Bott said.
Susan T. Hitchcock, superintendent of schools in Millbury, said, "Steven is a wonderful role model for students."
Mr. Bott has had some setbacks, including one this spring, when he broke his right foot in a fall.
"It took him a while to get back, but he did. He never gives up," Mrs. Bott said.
She said she is not at all surprised that he makes a large donation to the T&G Santa every year. "He really loves children, and he wants them to be happy."
In its 70th year, the T&G Santa Fund collects thousands of donations from generous readers and area residents to help buy...