Augie Nieto is a legend in two worlds.
Augie's contributions to the fitness community by popularizing the Lifecycle and his efforts to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) earned him Club Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented at the 2015 Club Industry Show on Oct. 8 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Augie was unable to travel to Chicago to accept in person, so his wife, Lynne, accepted the award on his behalf. In a brief speech, she addressed the Club Industry Show audience and many chief executive officers attending the show's CEO Summit, expressing her thanks to Club Industry and the industry as a whole.
"In the 35 years that Augie has been involved in the industry, there has been a whole sea change in the industry in the way you go to market - what it looks like," Lynne said. "In the same way, what Augie is doing with ALS TDI and research, it is effecting a similar change. The effectiveness of research and how we take it to market has changed quite a bit. So when we find a cure for this disease, we're going to have the fitness industry to thank for it in such a huge way."
In introducing Life Fitness President Chris Clawson, Lynne recalled an e-mail he sent to the Nietos two days after Augie informed the industry of his diagnosis in 2005.
"They may call it Lou Gehrig's disease, but they are going to call it Augie Nieto's cure," she recalled Clawson writing.
Clawson, who worked under Augie at Life Fitness before becoming president of the company, told the crowd that he remembered the e-mail and how he felt in the days after. He spoke of Augie's life before the diagnosis and his life since.
"As spectacular as he was as an innovator and entrepreneur, as somebody who was a die-hard in the fitness industry, as somebody who believed in compassion for the things that we do as a company and an industry, what happened after ALS has been the most spectacular," Clawson said.
Augie's efforts since his diagnosis are inspiring and changing lives, Clawson said.
Clawson then held up his phone and encouraged those in attendance to donate to Augie's Quest, which has raised $45 million in support of finding effective ALS treatments. Every year, Clawson described his job helping Augie raise funds as one of the most "joyful" things he does. Clawson calls people, including competitors, to ask for money for the cause. He said the job is easy because everyone says "yes."
"What is most amazing about what Augie has done is that he's literally taken something that was an orphan disease, and he's brought it to the forefront," Clawson said. "People talk about it. People think about it. Major League Baseball took up the cause. The Ice Bucket Challenge came after Augie. All of these things are because he has heightened the awareness, not only in our industry, but across the globe. I want you to think about that when you go home every night – imagine that he was one of us."
Clawson continued: "The more we can do to change the tide, to shift things and find a cure, the better chance we have of turning the cause we all have been fighting for 10 years into a cure."