My Work with the Arthritis Foundation

The most sobering question on the Arthritis Foundation website is this:

What if you were in so much pain you could not pick up your child?

Well, that was my dad. He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 34, right after I was born.

Like any child, I loved to be picked up and tossed in the air. One of our neighbors came to our house and would swing me in the air. My mom told me later that my arthritic dad would spend those times holding back his tears. That was the emotional pain. As a young person, I had no idea of the physical pain he was going through as well.

Fortunately, I am healthy and well. These days, I do get the occasional aches and pains, mostly in the morning, but when I feel like complaining, I just tell myself to “Shut up!”

A few years ago, I received a call from ONEgeneration, a community enrichment center that provides inter-generational programming to bring together seniors, young adults, and children for the purpose of promoting healthy lifestyles and overall well-being. The director asked me if I was interested in enrolling in an exercise training program for the Arthritis Foundation. I am a teacher, but I had never thought of teaching an exercise class.

I went through the training program, received my certification, and went for CPR training. I taught the class for several years and I loved teaching seniors! They did everything I told them to do. One time I told them, “You are my favorite students because you listen to me!” And then Bernie said, “We listen to you, but we don’t always hear you!”

Sadly, due to Covid, my exercise class at ONEgeneration came to an end. I miss my students immensely, but they will always be in my heart. Life goes on and even though I am no longer teaching my exercise class, I am still involved with the Arthritis Foundation.

I knew that there was a bike event from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was always in the back of my mind and I would always think, ‘I will do it next year.’ But as the years passed, I was not getting any younger. I decided to participate in the bike event in 2019.

And then in the spring of that year, I got very sick with pneumonia. I thought I was going to die. As I laid in my bed, ready to die, I thought, well I guess I won’t get to do the bike event after all, at least not in this life.

And then something miraculous happened. I got better. Once I regained my strength, I thought again about the bike event. I contacted the Arthritis Foundation and they invited me to an orientation meeting. While I was there, I inquired about the bike event. I thought I was too old and they would tell me I was not eligible, but that was not the case. They told me I was “just right.” All I needed was a bike.

That year I entered a video competition with AM 870. I did a short video telling how listening to the radio had affected my life. I won the contest! The grand prize was $1000.00. Pamela, the event coordinator told me to do something adventurous or to do something for myself. I decided to do both. I bought a bike and I started cycling.

At first, I did a lot of cycling by myself. Then I registered for the California Coast Classic from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I joined Team Billy and started riding with other cyclists who were also raising money for the Arthritis Foundation. And then I was introduced to the Old Kranks.

The Old Kranks is a group of dedicated cyclists aged 50+ who ride all over Ventura County. I met so many wonderful friends and I rode a lot of great routes. I became a really good cyclist in a short amount of time.

Then the Arthritis Foundation announced that the California Coast Classic from San Francisco to Los Angeles was cancelled due to Covid-19, but we could still do the event remotely. So I rode all over Southern California with Team Billy and the Old Kranks.

I rode 525 miles in 16 days and raised $1,500.00. I can’t wait to do it again! I have already registered for 2021 bike event and hopefully it will take place from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Covid will be a thing of the past.

“Luella is an excellent certified Arthritis Foundation Instructor. She volunteered twice a week at ONEgeneration Senior Enrichment Center, teaching “Be Fit While U Sit” to a class of almost 30 students. Her unique approach to engage her students and bring a positive energy to the class put a smile on the seniors’ faces and made them eager to come back to take the next class. Luella is a fantastic instructor and we hope she will continue to be a part of our center.”
Jenna Hauss – Director, Senior Enrichment Center & Care Management Program
“My friends and I agree that one of the highlights of our week is our workout classes with Luella Wagner. We enjoy the exercises, the music, and her upbeat positive personality. Best of all, we feel better and more youthful and energized afterwards!”
Carol Fox, Exercise Participant