Virgen: This one is for Augie Nieto

Throughout my career as a journalist I have been fortunate to meet some great people, famous athletes even my childhood idols.

With my 40th birthday approaching Tuesday, I feel grateful there have been many inspirational people I have met and I have had the pleasure writing about.

I've met Kobe Bryant, Adrian Peterson, Ronnie Lott and the GOAT, Jerry Rice, my all-time favorite athlete. I've met Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as writers and colleagues who gave me great advice: Rick Reilly, Frank DeFord and Jim Rome.

These are some great people. I'm not writing this column for the sake of name-dropping.

I'm writing to express the one encounter that gave me perhaps the most inspiration, made a deep impact on my life.

I'm writing about Augie Nieto.

By now, you've seen and read all about the ice bucket challenge for ALS. It's a phenomenon that has raised millions of dollars for Lou Gehrig's Disease.

I have a few Facebook friends who have negative opinions about the trend to record someone dousing you with ice-cold water and then challenging three others to do the same within 24 hours or you must donate $100. You're supposed to donate $10 and have the water dumped on you, they say. You're wasting water, they say.

But what about the positive aspect of the ice bucket challenge? What about Augie Nieto?

When I met Augie back in 2008, I was in awe of a man that had been through so much and was willing to give so much back to help others and himself. He lives with ALS and so do all his loved ones because they care for him.

He wasn't always the model for me. At one point, perhaps his lowest point, he attempted suicide.

But the story doesn't end there.

Augie went on to raise millions of dollars for ALS through Augie's Quest. He's defied the life expectancy of the disease.

Just a couple of months ago, it was reported by national media that he walked (helped by a harness and his therapist) his daughter down the aisle during her wedding.

What a remarkable story. Augie continues to inspire.

Recently I was challenged to douse myself with ice water and challenge three others. Kimberly Valentine-Poska, a Facebook friend whose father died of ALS; Tony Lee, a former Daily Pilot sports intern; and Bo St. Geme, a Corona del Mar High athlete, challenged me for the cause.

I immediately thought of Augie. I also thought of George Yardley, the famous pro basketball player out of Newport Harbor High. His family recently did the ice-water bucket challenge in front of Newport Harbor High, in front of the anchor.

I see nothing negative about this act. It's great.

I took the challenge Wednesday night outside the Daily Pilot office. I challenge my friends Paul Anderson, former Metro Editor at our paper; Mark Keys, another great inspirational man; and Teran Rodriguez, NHHS superfan.

I also challenge the athletic directors at each of the schools in our coverage area, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley.

Let's keep this going.


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