We've got great coverage of last week's IHRSA show for you, thanks to Pam Kufahl's blog post and our epic IHRSA 2014 photo gallery. And yes, I plan to do another mega blog post from the show like I did last year, so stay tuned for that in the days to come.
But I want to take a moment here to acknowledge the great efforts of all those associated with Augie's Quest in putting together the ninth annual Bash for Augie's Quest. By our estimation, the event drew more than 1,200 to San Diego's Marriott Marquis, one of the largest if not the largest gathering for The Bash. I bumped into Pat Laus of The Atlantic Club earlier in the day, and she was on her phone still busily selling tickets for the event.
The highlight of the evening no doubt was seeing Augie Nieto walk on stage. With Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" blaring on the loudspeakers, Augie took his first steps in front of a large audience with the aid of a walker and two of his trainers. As Pam noted in her blog post, Nieto has been taking experimental drugs and participating in the Project Walk program at the Claremont Club in Claremont, CA. The Bash committee has been sending out videos of Augie's development in the program for the past few months.
I may have mentioned this last year, or perhaps it was just from a conversation I had at the Bash's silent auction before the dinner, but we've really seen the range of emotions at the Bash over the years. From the growing sadness as Augie's conditioned worsened to the acceptance of what may happen to Augie to the resurgence of hope with his rehabilitation, this event has had it all.
Of course, it all goes back to the love affair between Augie and his wife, Lynne. This year's Bash had a superhero theme (Batman and Captain America seemed to go at it during the auction—even though one's from DC Comics and the other is from Marvel). Lynne took the superhero cue to talk about her superhero, Augie. She recalled the "fat Mexican kid" with the great laugh in high school who became a thinner, muscular kid with the same great laugh a year later. The two married other people but remained friends. In fact, Augie somehow found his way into the the going-away boat with Lynne and her groom at her wedding.
Lynne and Augie later divorced their first spouses and met up again, marrying later. They are grandparents now, and I think I saw their grandbabies during the auction. Their two grandchildren arrived last year back-to-back, if I recall.
On a side note, I'm pretty sure I saw actor PJ Byrne at The Bash, and he was holding a baby (not sure if this was a Nieto grandchild). Byrne was the scene-stealer Kenny Sommerfeld in "Horrible Bosses" a couple of years ago and most recently was "Rugrat" in "The Wolf of Wall Street." I checked (re: stalked) Byrne's Twitter page, and he not only retweeted Augie last July, but he also was in San Diego last weekend. Can somebody out there in Augie's Quest land please confirm this important discovery?
(UPDATE: From the Ask and You Shall Receive Department—Not long after this was posted, I was informed that that was indeed PJ Byrne, who is married to Jaime Byrne on the Augie's Quest team. The baby he was holding was their 6-month-old daughter, Madison Lucia. Congrats, Byrne family!)
The Bash raised more than $1.7 million ($1,700,105 to be exact) for Augie's Quest, which is transitioning its fundraising efforts from the MDA to the ALS Therapy Development Institute. The past couple of years, Curves founder Gary Heavin has been the top individual donor. Not only did he donate $100,000 again, but he had the winning bid of $6,000 for Augie's personalized cape that he wore on stage.
But the biggest donor was Mike Grondahl, founder of Planet Fitness who sold his stake in the company to TSG Consumer Partners in late 2012. Grondahl donated an amazing $250,000 to Augie's Quest. I still miss Mike's presence at Planet Fitness (he wasn't at The Bash), but it was good to hear about him again.
In addition to my mega blog, we plan to have video from the Bash up on the website in the next few weeks. After seeing the video, perhaps you'll want to attend the 10th (10th!) annual Bash next year in Los Angeles.