As a baby, Matthew Migliore had to wear casts to straighten his deformed toes and ankles. Doctors predicted he would never walk; instead, the 33-year-old northwest valley man is set to run in the Special Olympics’ Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Employees from the North Las Vegas Police Department and more than 40 other agencies were set to run alongside six or seven Special Olympics Nevada athletes beginning May 5, passing through Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas on May 12. They are set to carry the “Flame of Hope” from Boulder City to Reno, where the Summer Games begin June 9.
The Torch Run, which began in 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, is the Special Olympics’ largest grassroots fundraiser and public-awareness event, raising $56 million worldwide each year, Las Vegas-based executive committee member Robert Woolsey said. The run started in Nevada in 1989.
Migliore was born with Pierre Robin syndrome, a rare craniofacial deformity that causes mild bone and blood diseases; he’s set to run from Hoover Dam to Nellis Air Force Base on May 12. He said he has been participating in the Torch Run for 14 years. In 2014, he was chosen to represent Nevada in the LETR Final Leg in the Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey. Migliore said he also has won more than 60 gold medals as part of the Special Olympics Nevada soccer, bowling and golf teams.
His mother, Thelma, said he didn’t begin walking until he was nearly 6, but ever since, she hasn’t been able to keep up with him.
Migliore will run all but one leg of the race between Henderson and U.S. 95, she added.
“He will run the whole thing if they let him,” his mother said. “His brain doesn’t know it, but his body is getting older and it needs to slow down.”
Woolsey has participated in the Torch Run since 1999 and got heavily involved with planning in 2004. After colleague Carl Cox with the Elko County’s Sheriff’s Office, who worked with him on the Torch Run, died from cancer in 2011, Woolsey redesigned the run to reflect Cox’s vision of making it statewide.
Woolsey has a cousin who has severe autism.
“We live in the kind of world where people shy away from people who are different,” he said. “The good thing about the Special Olympics is that it combines people with disabilities (and those who don’t) with sports, which is kind of that thing that builds a bridge between the two … It gives those athletes a opportunity to build and achieve the same things as the rest of us.
I don’t think there’s anything else in the world that you could do for people who are more deserving or more grateful.”
This is North Las Vegas Police Officer Laurianne Lee’s first Torch Run. It’s also the first time since 2004 that the department has had a leg in the event, she said. Lee gathered a team including a firefighter, junior officers, city employees, her son and a running group to run about 2 miles from North Las Vegas Municipal Court to the College of Southern Nevada’s North Las Vegas Campus. She said she has a personal goal of raising $1,000 and hopes the group can get up to $10,000.
Lee said she’s running for her younger brother Nikolai, who was born with a brain tumor, and the Special Olympics Nevada athletes.
“When you interact with an athlete, their smiles are completely contagious,” she said. “You can’t leave there without feeling good about yourself. … Without us (Special Olympics) couldn’t operate, and without them we couldn’t feel the awesome things they do.”
Although Thelma won’t be in the race this year, she said she is excited to see her son and the other athletes run.
“It’s one of the most wonderful things to see,” she said. “Some of these kids shouldn’t be walking, and you look at that. You just stare in amazement. You can’t help but shed a tear.”
How to help
You don’t have to be in law enforcement to participate in the run, said Allyce Pierson, a Special Olympics staff member and associate director for the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Those interested can register for $25 to enter the run or can donate at the organization’s website. The organization’s goal is to raise $25,000; as of May 1, it had raised about $5,500 and had 109 people registered, according to its website.
By the numbers
3,260: Number of athletes involved in the Special Olympics Nevada
3,510: Number of volunteers involved
Nine: Number of sports included
35: Number of competitions each year