While Augie Nieto's presence on last weekend's MDA Telethon was nothing less than inspirational, I couldn't help feeling more sad than I did when I saw him last year on TV or even in person at the IHRSA show last March.
Augie, whose battle with ALS the past few years has now cost him the ability to speak, appeared twice on the telethon, once with Bally CEO Mike Sheehan, and another time with his wife, Lynne, and his son, Austin. Last year, the audience gave Augie a standing ovation. Although this year's audience gave Augie and his family a warm reception, the response didn't seem quite the same for some reason.
Maybe it had something to do with Augie's deteriorating health, although I can personally attest that he can still e-mail with lightning speed. Augie wrote a response to me recently regarding an upcoming story on Jack LaLanne. He then wrote another e-mail inquiring if we were going to do a story about Augie's Quest, his fundraising machine. Augie's Quest has now raised almost $20 million since 2006. (For more information, log onto Augie's Web site.)
On the telethon, John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting sang a song about Augie—the same song he sang at Augie's Bash in San Francisco during the IHRSA show in March. My favorite line in the song is about how Augie "caught Lou Gehrig rounding third one day, now he's leading the whole team."
The battle to fight ALS—Lou Gehrig's disease—is most definitely now the quest for Augie's cure.