I remember the first time I met Augie Nieto in the summer of 1991 at a trade show in Chicago. I walked away from that encounter thinking to myself — “what a dynamo!” His confidence showed in his stride, his powerful handshake and his outgoing demeanor. But most of all, I remember how his gaze was so intense you felt he could look right through you.
Fast forward a few years and I came to Life Fitness for what would be the first of three separate careers with the company, but it was while at another company that I got a call from Lynne and Augie together. The tone clearly had changed, something wasn’t quite right. To begin with, I never spoke on the phone with both of them at the same time beyond Lynne yelling hello into the phone and surely never heard Augie so subdued.
As they began to walk me through an abbreviated version of how Augie was experiencing muscle weakness, traveled all over the country to meet with specialists and the constant hope for answers that never came, I found myself beginning to worry where this was all headed. ALS wasn’t what I’d expected them to announce, but I knew exactly what those three letters spelled. It was beyond my ability to completely assimilate on the entirety of the situation on that call.
When people ask me to describe Augie, I respond — “which one?” I spent years admiring the first version of the man that I call my mentor; the person I describe as being known in the fitness community by a single name – AUGIE! That version was bigger than life, filled with bravado and even an arrogance to those that weren’t close enough to him to see how generous he was. He was as much of a celebrity in the fitness industry, as anyone had ever been. In a word he was bold.
The second version is far different than the original, as he has channeled all his passion and exceptional drive into a singular goal to find a cure for ALS. This “new and improved” Augie has operated as a hero for an underfunded and under-researched disease that has historically carried a death sentence with it. This version of Augie created Augie’s Quest, an inspiring charity that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund ALS research with successful results, providing a beacon of hope for those living with ALS and their loved ones.
Augie is the reason why I and hundreds of others volunteer our time, fundraise, spread the word about the success of their drug development and pray every day for better times ahead for those being challenged by this insidious disease.
They may call it Lou Gehrig disease, but someday it will be known as Augie’s cure!
May is ALS Awareness Month. In May alone, 496 people will be diagnosed with ALS and will be challenged to choose how they spend their remaining years. Every day, Augie chooses to celebrate and focus on what he can do rather than what he can’t. He has shifted from finding fitness solutions to improve lives, to finding a cure to save lives – and he’s still keeping busy – working to achieve that goal.
Augie’s Quest to Cure ALS is dedicated to changing the experience of people living with ALS. With Augie’s Quest, ALS doesn’t stand a fighting chance. Support our Quest to find a cure by making a donation.