The emotional pinnacle of any wedding is the bride's walk down the aisle and the parent spotlight dances are a close second. Many of us take these special moments with our parents for granted, but for 25-year-old bride Lindsay Nieto, performing them at her nuptials on July 5 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California was nothing short of a miracle.
Lindsay's 56-year-old father, Augie, has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease), for the past decade. This progressive neurodegenerative disease affects nerve cells to the brain and spinal cord, which may lead to total paralysis in later stages. Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.
Augie lost the use of his arms and legs, and he also underwent a trachetomy that rendered him unable to speak. After seeing her dad suffer for so long, the bride opened up to BG that she had given up hope that he would be able to participate in escorting her down the aisle. It was an incredible testament to his hard work and dedication to train throughout the past year.
"It was the most important walk I had ever taken with my dad by my side and my husband Chris waiting at the end of the aisle. I felt overwhelmed by the love shared by our joined families as they supported Chris and I. We all laughed and cried together," she says.
In a role reversal, this father was determined to make his youngest child proud: "She made me feel loved and that no matter what I did, it would be okay and I was a success! What a wonderful way to take the pressure off," he tells us. Augie was able to mouth "I love you, and I'm so proud of you" to Lindsay during the ceremony.
Watch Augie walk his daughter down the aisle here:
Augie used a "Tram" device to maneuver down the aisle, which he was first introduced to with his recent workout regimen at Project Walk Claremont. His physical therapist, Tanya Slusser, helped him after each step so that his legs didn't lock up.
Later on at the reception, there wasn't a dry eye in the room during the father-daughter dance. Lindsay held her dad's legs as they danced to "100 Years" by Five for Fighting (the lead singer, John Ondrasik, has become a good friend of the family).
Prior to his diagnosis, Augie was a pioneer in the fitness equipment industry and led an incredibly active life, even going skydiving and bungee jumping. Despite the unexpected turn his life had taken, he was determined not to let his medical condition diminish his vibrant spirit. He found new purpose by parlaying his business knowledge into creating Augie's Quest, a foundation dedicated to funding research and drug development. Since 2007, they've raised nearly $40 million to help find a cure for ALS.
Touched by the Nieto family's awe-inspiring story? Visit AugiesQuest.org and Als.net to learn more about fundraising events in your area or to make a donation. You can also follow Augie on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram.
Check out beautiful photos from Lindsay's big day that were shot by Brian Hawkins Photography:
— Stefania Sainato