05 Oct My LETR Story by Domingo Leveque-Zapata
It is impossible to tell a story about getting involved with Special Olympics without talking about an athlete or two. My story is no different.
My name is Domingo Leveque-Zapata, and I am the Montana Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Director. My story begins before I was even born, with my older sister Consuelo, or Sway as we call her. Sway was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that allowed her to enjoy the world from a different vantage point. She began competing in Special Olympics from a young age. When I was just a wee lad, I was constantly on my mom’s hip cheering on Sway as she competed in various track and field events. As I got older, I found myself working at programs Sway attended, and I got to meet and hang out with other athletes and individuals with disabilities. I became a volunteer at Special Olympic events and a coach for some of the athletes.
When I became a police officer, I thought my time working with individuals with disabilities and being a part of Special Olympics had come to an end with a challenging career ahead of me. However, a Sergeant in my Department knew my family and was aware of Sway.
You see, he had arrested several of my sisters (no family is perfect- don’t judge!) and even helped bring Sway home every now and again when she decided to get an evening walk in without telling anyone. This Sergeant introduced me to the Law Enforcement Torch Run and got me involved right away, with my first event being one of Jack Allen’s famous “Around the World” lunches. I soon found myself being a part of a Polar Plunge committee, plunging in a frozen lake, being a Torch Runner, and then a Leg Leader. I even started a pool tournament for LETR. And through it all, there was Sway. She would cheer me on during our runs, enjoy watching my agony when I would plunge into icy water, and sip on a beverage or two at the bar during the pool tournaments.
I am 14 years into my career and can honestly say the highlights have been my times with LETR and Special Olympics. I have presented at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy with athlete ambassador Chris Halverson. I represented Montana at the USA Games in 2014 and 2018 and met officers and athletes from across the country. I have traveled to various parts of the country and the Bahamas for International Conferences and met officers and athletes from across the world (the ones from Ireland are my personal favorite!). Yet, the best moments still come when I get to do awards ceremonies at regional games and state competitions—hanging out with the athletes, cheering them on, and watching these amazing competitors triumph and demonstrate their bravery. Enough can’t be said about them. Whether they are a “yellow blur” on the track or trying to emulate Steph Curry on the court, they just don’t stop impressing. And when officers are there, you would think we were family. They run up to us; they hug us like there’s no tomorrow and are genuinely happy we’re there. Sway is my sister, but all the athletes are now family.
If you are a past or current LETR member, I thank you for your support of this wonderful program. If you are new to us, I can’t wait for you to create your own experiences and memories. Special Olympics and LETR have left their mark on me. I hope they have done or will do the same for you.