Aside from the occasional fundraiser in another part of the country or a weekend getaway with friends, Lynne Nieto is often by the side of her husband, Augie.
When Lynne usually addresses the fitness industry, she can lean on Augie for support during emotional speeches and can stand behind his wheelchair to conceal her nervous ankles.
So it was a rare sight to see Lynne and only Lynne last Thursday at the Club Industry Show in Chicago to accept Club Industry’s Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Augie, who was back home in California.
“I’m with him more than I’m not,” she said after the ceremony while sitting outside the McCormick Place Lakeside Center, with sailboats gliding across the blue water on a sunny weekday. “But I also miss Augie when I’m gone.”
Lynne was not alone, however. After accepting the award on Augie’s behalf (“It’s Augie’s award — not mine,” she said), Lynne welcomed to the podium Life Fitness President Chris Clawson, a close friend of the Nietos.
“I wish I would have just had him go up,” she said and laughed. “He’s so eloquent, and it just comes off so smoothly.”
Related: Blog: A Salute to Augie and Simon
Following a short video from well-wishers congratulating Augie on his award, Lynne credited Clawson for coming up with a phrase retold every year at the Bash for Augie’s Quest during the IHRSA show. In 2005, two days after Augie was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, the Nietos sent a mass email to friends telling them of the diagnosis. Clawson responded by email, “They may call it Lou Gehrig’s disease, but they’re going to call it Augie Nieto’s cure.”
“I remember the email,” Clawson told the audience. “I remember the time after the email, and how I felt. Augie was a friend of mine for many years before I started work at Life Fitness, and then he was my boss at Life Fitness. He’s been my mentor. He’s a guy who likes to give me (stuff) all the time. He still does.”
Both Clawson and Lynne Nieto noted how the award honored Augie not only for his efforts in the fight against ALS with Augie’s Quest (which has raised more than $45 million) but also for his entrepreneurship in introducing the Lifecycle to the health club world. Augie’s drive as a businessman, which led to his co-founding Life Fitness and leadership as chairman of Octane Fitness, has carried over into the search for a cure for ALS.
“As spectacular as he was as an innovator, as an entrepreneur … what happened after ALS has been the most spectacular,” Clawson said. “What he’s done since then and the way that he’s done it is not only inspiring but it’s something that’s changing the lives of people who are currently diagnosed with ALS.”
Augie, the chief inspiration officer of Augie’s Quest and chairman of the board of the ALS Therapy Development Institute, may have spearheaded the fundraising effort in the fitness industry, but Lynne knows it has taken — and continues to take — a team effort.
“When we find a cure to this disease,” Lynne told the audience, “we’re going to have the fitness industry to thank for it.”
The Club Industry appearance was part of a whirlwind week for Lynne, who headed back to California for last Saturday’s 10th annual Tradition of Hope Gala in Beverly Hills. Other than the Bash, the Gala is the next biggest fundraiser for Augie’s Quest, Lynne said. The Gala raised more than $1 million, according to an Augie’s Quest spokesperson.
The Bash at the IHRSA show next year will be more challenging for the Nietos, who will have to travel cross-country for the event in Orlando, Fla. Plans for the trip are in the early stages.
“‘How Are We Getting Augie to Orlando?’ is the question,” Lynne said before adding, “We’ll get him there.”