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Woman recalls Steinbrenner's kindness to her as a child

This file photo shows New York Yankees owner

This file photo shows New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner waving to fans in Tampa, Fla. Steinbrenner, who rebuilt the New York Yankees into a sports empire with a mix of bluster and big bucks that polarized fans all across America, died Tuesday, July 13, 2010, in Tampa, Fla. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4. (Feb. 17, 2003) Photo Credit: AP

Lorraine Blakely of Lake Ronkonkoma was a second-grader when George Steinbrenner donated $13,000 to cover her medical bills after an accident at school nearly killed her.

That was in October 1977, when she was known as Lori. Her story was chronicled in Newsday after a Central Islip Fire Department demonstration at Anthony Alfano Elementary School went terribly awry.

Lori was standing with about 500 classmates watching a Fire Prevention Week demonstration as firefighters showed the force of a device used to open crushed automobile doors. They inserted a block of wood to illustrate the machine's strength - but the wood didn't break and instead blew out of the machine, striking the 7-year-old in the head and smashing her skull.

Emergency brain surgery saved her life, but her parents, Sarah and John Wallinger, were unable to pay the bill.

News stories about their fundraising efforts showed a smiling little girl, her head encased in a hockey helmet. One person who took notice was Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who sent a limo to deliver the family to his office, where he gave them a check for $13,000.

"It's a day I'll never forget," Blakely, now 40, said Thursday. "I remember being nervous. Even at 7, I knew who the Yankees were."

Through the years, she said, "when I saw George Steinbrenner on TV, I never saw the Yankees' boss. I saw the kind, generous man I met as a girl."

In 1981, Lori received a $450,000 settlement from the Central Islip Fire Department.

Also in 1981, after the Northport High School Tiger Marching Band played at Yankee Stadium for a playoff game, Steinbrenner asked them to make another appearance when the team reached the World Series. After a 15-minute performance, the 250-member band was given seats in the leftfield stands.

"We were treated beautifully by the Yankee organization," Robert Krueger said Thursday from his Northport home. Krueger, 83, retired in 1982 as music director from the high school. With Denise Bonilla

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