Daniell Nielsen | 2013 National Success Story Winner

SPEAKER 1: And he would
always just say random stuff and he would just make
me crack up laughing. NARRATOR: No matter how
much they wish they could– DANIELL NIELSEN: He
was just lovable. NARRATOR: Brandon Nielsen’s wife
Daniell and the couple’s five children can’t bring
the deputy back. DANIELL NIELSEN: I always knew
my kids were pretty special. But I don’t think I realized
how special and strong that they are. And protective they can be. [POLICE SIRENS] NARRATOR: August 16, 2012. DANIELL NIELSEN:
That morning Brandon had been on the night shift. NARRATOR: Brandon
and other St. John the Baptist Parish deputies
responded to reports that a fellow officer
had been shot. SPEAKER 2: Another person
exited that trailer with an assault
weapon and ambushed– ambushed my two officers. NARRATOR: Anti-government
extremists killed two of the
responding officers. DANIELL NIELSEN:
So I thought, gosh at least he would text me
and let me know he’s OK. Surely. NARRATOR: Brandon Nielsen
was one of the officers who died that day. DANIELL NIELSEN: My
daughter had just started second grade with
no front teeth in her mouth. And I can remember looking
at her thinking, you know, gosh he was such a good daddy. And I remember thinking that. I remember telling them that. Everything changed
from that day. NARRATOR: For years prior
to her husband’s death, Daniell and Brandon both had
struggled with their weight. Now, while still
grieving, Daniell had a whole new set of
challenges to deal with. Alone. DANIELL NIELSEN: I
knew how to be a wife. I was a pretty good wife. But I didn’t know
how to be a widow. It was something that I
had never even considered I would ever have to be. Especially not at 35. NARRATOR: Refusing to
allow Brandon’s death to overwhelm her, Daniell
willed herself to be strong. MICHELLE OUBRE: This
is Daniell Nielsen, day one of her journey! [CHEERING] NARRATOR: Just six weeks
after her husband’s passing, Daniell joined Anytime Fitness
in Destrehan, Louisiana. MICHELLE OUBRE: I knew that
she had kind of lost her place and that we had the team
here to help her heal. JENNIFER PERKINS: I wanted her
to know she was loved here. I just wanted her to know
that we cared about her and that we were
here to help her. BRANDON HEBERT: Today Daniell is
rocking a lovely shade of gray. NARRATOR: The personal trainer
with whom Daniell has worked most closely is Brandon Hebert. BRANDON HEBERT: It
began with wanting to change her identity from
someone’s life who was just shattered and
broken, into someone that was able to mold
herself into a better person. DANIELL NIELSEN: I didn’t
know I was actually going to have to work out today. I really was banking on not. NARRATOR: After working with
Brandon for just 10 months– DANIELL NIELSEN: I like how
you’re picking new shit. NARRATOR: Daniell is down nearly
100 pounds from her heaviest. DANIELL NIELSEN: I can do a
lot more things than I ever thought I could possibly do. NARRATOR: And her
spirits are way up. DANIELL NIELSEN: Am I
allowed to talk back to him? You wake up and you
make a choice every day that you have to be
strong for your kids. You have to be strong if
you have certain goals that you want to achieve. You have to reach
inside yourself and find your strength. So it’s a choice you make
every day to be strong. NARRATOR: That’s
not to say that she doesn’t have her down moments. When she misses
her husband most, Daniell often lets go
while running alone. DANIELL NIELSEN:
Sometimes you’ll see me, it looks like I’m just
sweating, but it’s most of the time tears
running down my face. I don’t really like to fall
apart in front of people. He’s got a ball and a band. This is going to
be a lot of fun. JENNIFER PERKINS: Members love
Daniell, because she comes in and everybody says hello. They all go up and hug her. She goes up to
people and hugs them. She’s definitely loved here. DANIELL NIELSEN: And you
brought me through that. I don’t want people
to feel sorry for me. I want them to say this
is what happened to her and this is how she reacted. This is how she overcame
this tragedy in her life. NARRATOR: Gathered
near a tree they planted to honor Brandon,
the children also pay tribute to Daniell. TYLER NIELSEN: My mom’s the
strongest person in the world, and I believe with all my heart. She keeps us running, she
keeps the family running. I wouldn’t want anything
other than that. NARRATOR: Although they
can’t bring Brandon back, they can be sure of
at least one thing. DANIELL NIELSEN: I
think he’d be proud.

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