TODAY

TODAY   |  November 13, 2013

Natalie #InspiredBy Life Fitness founder’s ALS fight

As TODAY’s week-long #InspiredBy series continues, Natalie Morales shares her inspiration: Life Fitness founder Augie Nieto, who has ALS and has raised millions to battle the disease.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> looking forward to this. your turn to share your inspiration.

>> that's right, guys. well, today is my turn. i chose somebody i have come to know very well in the past seven years having done stories on the "today" show. he is battling als, a relentless degenerative disease but somehow he transformed adversity into strength and along the way he has become a hero to so many people.

>> sometimes in life, you cross paths with someone, even if you just meet them in an instant and they impact you so deeply, perhaps in ways you never imagined. for me, that person is auggie.

>> you can either celebrate what you can do or mourn what you can't.

>> i first met him and his family seven years ago back in 2006 . he founded life fitness among the very first bicycles and treadmills at the gym and he was such a huge force in the industry but in peak health at the age of 46 he was diagnosed with als. it's a fast progressing and cruel disease that paralyzes the body and sadly most people die within a few short years.

>> my mind is sharper than ever.

>> after he was diagnosed, he felt pretty powerless. in fact, he tried to take his own life. but then, he rebounded with a vengeance and he and his wife founded aggie's quest. their goal and mission was to help eradicate this cruel disease.

>> we now have a new goal. 30 million in five years.

>> the last time i saw him was back in 2009 and i honestly feared it might be the last time i would see him. but today, miraculously, he seems to be thriving by leaps and bounds. how are you? you look great.

>> hi, natalie.

>> he can't move his body. he can't speak. but you can see the fire in his eyes. his energy, his love, and his passion.

>> i feel very fortunate to be in the place i am in life.

>> augie's quest now raised almost $40 million and amazingly his spirit seems stronger than ever.

>> he'll whisper to me in bed in the morning and say i'm happy.

>> reporter: it's amazing to see him in action. he uses a roller ball typing with his foot and the computer speaks what he wants to say.

>> it's amazing that i watched you this morning and you are with us.

>> for the first time in years he's actually working out again. it's a mind boggling feet. he is working out at a special recovery facility called project walk.

>> he has moved his hands for the first time in eight years.

>> he is now training with one singular goal in mind.

>> i want to walk lindsey down the aisle.

>> his daughter lindsey's wedding is next summer and augie will be there.

>> he is able to physically move his legs now?

>> i love you. you're doing a great job.

>> i think this is a new place for augie both physically and emotionally.

>> augie is a major inspiration.

>> he's your hero.

>> oh, yeah, he is definitely a hero.

>> recently i met corey reach, just 27 years old. the peak of his life and is battling als.

>> augie would never allow it to keep him from doing what he wants to do.

>> i get so much strength from you and your family.

>> i think what's so inspiring about augie is he's a fighter, a force, appreciative, positive, and fearless. if he can do it, the rest of us certainly can.

>> wow.

>> augie as you see there lives and he loves every second of every day. he's still incredibly active. not only with augie's quest but business front too. he's on the board of curve fitness so he is busier than ever if you can believe that and his mind is sharper than ever.

>> and his condition seems to have not only stabilize but in some ways is getting better which seems to unheard of.

>> it is. reality check here because it is als, it is a fatal disease. but he has had a tracheotomy which helped with his breathing. he has a feeding tube and he also -- he's in a very fortunate situation that he can afford the best medical care and technology. so that's how he builds his life and he is one of those guys that he's going to fight it to the bitter end.

>> but just moving his hand.

>> for the first time in 8 years and you saw how his wife got so emotional.

>> what a moment that will be next year if he's able to walk her down the aisle.

>> thank you for introducing us to augie.

>> and kathie lee we get to meet your inspiration in a little while in the 10:00 hour.

>> right. is this when i'm supposed to tell everybody who it is?

>> right, sure.

>> i went down the other night to billy graham 's 95th birthday party and when i was 12 years old i went to a movie called the restless ones. that's billy -- he was on one of my christmas specials. but i went to a movie called the restless ones. it was the first movie that the bill litty graham organization had put out. like the person in the film, i was on the very cusp of womanhood and you can go to world's way and i felt like god was saying no why don't you trust me with your life. i'll make something beautiful out of it. it was a movie theater but i went down to the end of the altar and asked jesus into my heart and it completely transformed me and has affected every moment of my days since. so you'll meet billy if you haven't already, on the 10:00 .

>> and we'll hear matt's inspiration tomorrow.

>> yeah, you're a great woman of faith and that's something that billy gave to you.

>> he introduced it. my whole family, actually. so i -- and i got a chance to say at the very end of his birthday party the other night i was able to go right up to him and say billy , it's kathie lee and he could focus and he said i love you.

>> aw.

>> we'll see more of that