SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV)- The year was 1980 and in a store window Sally Paterni spotted Misha the bear, the mascot for that year's Olympic Games.
"I thought, how cute, because I've always loved teddy bears," said Paterni.
So, she bought the bear not realizing at the time what this stuffed animal was going to start.
"I've always loved stuffed toys and animals and so I just started collecting after that and it just bloomed," said Paterni. "Each time they announce a new olympics I can't wait to see what the mascots going to be. Like Vucko the wolf was from Yugoslavia. And then I've got several from Australia and from Greece."
The list goes on and on. Not only does Paterni collect the Olympic mascots, but she also collects pins and other memorabilia from the games. This year's Olympics is in Sochi, and even though they haven't started yet, Paterni has already done her shopping.
"Yes, I have the mittens from Russia. Those are the hot item right now," said Paterni. "On the palm of one it says, 'Go,' and on the other it says, 'USA.' So when you're clapping you've got them up in the air."
Paterni's never attended the Games, but she did come very close during the Winter Olympics in Calgary.
"I had the tickets to four events, two tickets to each one," said Paterni. "And that was a real heartbreak when we couldn't get away."
So why does she continue to collect Olympic memorabilia?
"It makes me happy," said Paterni. "It does. I know I'm doing the right thing for myself because it makes me feel good. Plus... this is a biggie... we are supporting the United States athletes."
Paterni says a lot of countries financially support their Olympic athletes, but the United States does not. She says they depend on donations from private citizens. She also says she's never researched what her collectables could be worth because she never plans on selling them. Instead, she plans to pass them on to her family some day.
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