My LETR Story by Nick Buciuman

My name is Nickalas Buciuman and I am the Montana Law Enforcement Torch Run Southeast Regional Coordinator.  

 I am the middle child of three boys (oh how my mother was so lucky). When I was roughly five years old, I can remember my mother and stepfather sitting me and my older brother, Johnathon, down and telling us that we would have an addition to the family. I remember hearing this news and being distraught. I immediately began to cry as I thought to myself, “I am no longer going to be the center of attention.” Now, at the age of five, my jealousy for this unborn attention thief ran rampant as I started acting out in school and at home.  

 I remember the day Brandon Lee Brown (known to me as “Turkey Butt”) was brought home after my mother gave birth. As soon as I saw him, I knew he wasn’t a burden but a blessing. I had no idea at that time, though, just how much of a blessing he was and has been in my life and how important he is to me. 

 When my mother told Johnathan and me that Brandon had down syndrome, we really didn’t understand what that meant. All we knew was that he was special and would have to work a little harder at things than most.  

Nick Buciuman with his brother, Brandon (right).

I remember Brandon’s early years and how being a “big brother” meant so much more to me than the actual words themselves. He was and has been my best friend since the beginning. I was lucky enough to have gotten involved in Special Olympics at a very early age. When we moved to Montana (I was roughly in middle school/early high school), Brandon first got involved in Special Olympics. It was so incredible to watch children like Brandon flourish and succeed at the tasks they took on.  

 After about a year of Brandon being in Special Olympics, I started to take on more of a “coach” role for him. We would attend practices together and work on skill development outside practices and SOMT functions. Looking back at those days, I can honestly say with confidence that Brandon and his commitment to sports made me the leader I am today. It taught me so many positive qualities that I hold true to this day.  

 I first started working in law enforcement in January 2015. Brandon was still competing in track and field and basketball at that time. In May 2015, I was granted the opportunity to be the Officer who pinned the awards on the athletes. I remember thinking to myself, what an honor. In preparation for that day, I ditched my external vest and wore my best Class A uniform. On that day in Billings, I got to provide awards to so many incredible athletes, including my brother, Brandon. I don’t recall who was more excited, him or I. After that moment, I was hooked.  

Since that time, I have prioritized Special Olympics in my life. I have been so fortunate to have received so many opportunities and life experiences during my role with LETR and SOMT. Those mentioned life experiences also include jumping into freezing cold weather on an annual basis.  

Polar Plunge is probably my favorite event that LETR does. Is there anything better than jumping into icy cold water in the winter for a good cause? I think not. This year (2022), LETR provided me with the opportunity to travel to Sidney, Montana, and help out their incredible crew/team.  

What a great experience that was for me. Until that time, I have only witnessed Billings Polar Plunges. Traveling to Sidney, and interacting with their plunge team, law enforcement leaders, and incredibly supportive community was truly a humbling and energizing experience.  

Helping out with Sidney’s Polar Plunge allowed me to expand my horizon, take note of their success, and bring it home to Billings.  

Having LETR in my life has helped me grow into the Officer I am today. There is not a day that goes by that I take for granted and acknowledge the incredible people I have met — the experiences I have gotten and the incredible service I am privileged to provide to athletes all through my role in LETR.