by Lindsay Gordon
“We are horrible at fundraising!” was the first thing Matt and Caitlin Bellina said as soon as the conversation started. From what began as a grassroots, door-to-door fundraising effort has since blossomed into a great event for families all over the Bucks County area to enjoy. “I really didn’t know where to start,” said Matt Bellina, “I began going door-to-door to local businesses in the area to ask them to donate until we found out about Augie’s Quest and the fundraising history they have with our gym, the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC).”
The purpose of Augie’s Quest is to support the fundraising efforts towards research and drug development to put an end to ALS, also known as, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Since 2007, Augie’s Quest has raised over $44 million dollars – making it the largest individual fundraiser for ALS.
Augie Nieto co-founded Augie’s Quest with his wife, Lynne. Augie sits as the Chairman of the Board at ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI), and sends all funds raised through his quest to support their research and development. Matt and Caitlin have described Augie as a true visionary, “He is the kind of person who is so unconventional in his thinking. People will get diagnosed with ALS and continue to follow the rules on how to deal with the disease as it progresses. Augie has not done that. He is finding revolutionary ways to treat and hopefully end ALS.”
Matt was diagnosed with ALS in April of 2014. As he explains, “Some people refer to ALS as an ‘old persons disease,” which is not the case. He was 30 years old at the time of the diagnosis.
Matt is actively involved with the Young Faces of ALS, which is a group of about 30 people who have been diagnosed with the disease under the age of 30. As most chillingly remember, the summer of 2014 was spent filling up large buckets of ice water and pouring them over your head to bring awareness to ALS. As part of that campaign, fellow member of Young Faces of ALS, Anthony Carbajal, posted a viral video shedding light on the disease, his diagnosis and brought attention to ALS TDI.
At the time of Matt’s diagnosis, he recalls, “I was not optimistic. I’m a realist. When I was diagnosed back in April, I never thought that it would be possible to see a treatment or cure for this disease in my lifetime.” Flash-forward to October 2014, when Matt and Caitlin went to the ALS TDI laboratory, they were amazed with the progress that was made in a short amount of time. “Thanks to the outpouring support for ALS this summer, ALS TDI received a large amount of funding to accelerate their research to put an end to the disease.”
Augie Nieto, also the co-founder of the well-known sports equipment line, Life Fitness, works with gyms across the country to fundraise for his quest. Matt and Caitlin Bellina have joined forces with Augie’s Quest and the Newtown Athletic Club to host a work out marathon with all proceeds going to ALS TDI. The Matt’s Mission work out marathon event is open to the public, whether you are living in Bucks County or not. Event details are below:
Do you know a local who is making it happen? Nominate them here.