Laniese’s Story

For as long as Laniese can remember, friends, classmates and complete strangers have been encouraging her to “buck up” and “push through” what they think is just a little stiffness and soreness. Little do they know what this talented high school senior experiences as a teenager living with arthritis.

Laniese Penner participated in competitive gymnastics as a child. For several years, she complained about ankle and wrist pain. Her mom thought it was from landing poorly and the stress of tumbling. But pain was taking over Laniese’s body, and she didn’t understand why. Eventually, Laniese had to drop out of gymnastics. Then she was forced to quit piano lessons because it hurt to press the keys. On a summer vacation, she couldn’t keep up with her family for even a quarter of a mile on their annual hike.

Finally, Laniese became very sick and was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age 9, just after starting the fourth grade.

“When I was first diagnosed, my friends told me their grandma had the same thing I did and didn’t understand why I had to miss so much school. I felt so alone, like no one else my age knew what I was experiencing. At first, I just wanted to fit in. I would show up to school with red, swollen joints and would be in so much pain. Kids would ask me if I was okay. I’d tell them I was fine and that nothing was wrong. Today, I want every child with arthritis to know that they should never hide their pain. It’s not something to be ashamed of, and it certainly doesn’t define you.”

What It’s Really Like to Have Arthritis
As an Arthritis Foundation Advocate and aspiring rheumatologist, Laniese wants the world to know that arthritis is more than a little hurting or pain.

“People don’t understand what arthritis is. It’s not like having a twisted ankle that will heal in two weeks. It’s constant and never goes away. Some days, the pain makes me so exhausted I could sleep for a week and still be tired.

“This past school year has been one of my worst years with arthritis. I got really sick for two months and people didn’t understand how a sinus infection could be a reason to miss so much school. They don’t realize one of the complications of arthritis is having a weaker immune system.

“My body was trying to fight the sinus infection and my arthritis at the same time. I was just flaring. I had to miss my first basketball game of the year. During English class, my hand was red and swollen after just five minutes of trying to write a short essay. People think it’s just a little pain, but you’re having surgeries and a hip replacement at age 16. That’s not normal and shouldn’t be happening.”

Stronger Than Arthritis
Despite the pain arthritis brings, Laniese knows she is stronger than her disease. She refuses to allow arthritis to create limitations or put her in a box.

“Being an Arthritis Warrior means breaking through walls and stereotypes. People want to put you in a box and tell you what you can’t do. But you can show the world you can play varsity basketball, run cross-country, be student council president, become valedictorian, receive a perfect score in music class, tell your congressman your story and much more. I am stronger than arthritis, and I’m just getting started.”
Laniese credits much of of the determination and positive perspective she has today to her relationship with the Arthritis Foundation.

“For a long time, I felt so alone. After going to my first Arthritis Foundation conference, I realized there were so many other kids my age who were struggling like me. It was the first time I felt understood. One of the girls I met there is my best friend today. The most helpful treatment I’ve found for my disease is surrounding myself with people who I can share with and who I trust to ask for help. Without the Arthritis Foundation, I would not have the relationships I have today that have helped shape me into who I’ve become.”

When Laniese graduates this year, she plans to go to college and major in biochemistry. She wants to pursue a career in the medical field because of what she has experienced with JA. “All of my health care professionals have played a huge role in my life. I’d like to go into medicine or research to help others with arthritis. I want to have the same impact on people that my doctors have had on me.”

I Want to Contribute
I Need Help
  • Donate

    Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.

  • Volunteer

    Join us and become a Champion of Yes. There are many volunteer opportunities available.

  • Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Take part to be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis.

  • Partner

    Proud Partners of the Arthritis Foundation make an annual commitment to directly support the Foundation’s mission.


Make a Donation

Help millions of people live with less pain and fund groundbreaking research to discover a cure for this devastating disease. Please, make your urgently-needed donation to the Arthritis Foundation now!

Become a Member

Become an Arthritis Foundation member today for just $20. You'll receive a year's worth of Arthritis Today magazine, access to helpful tools, resources, and more.

Make a Honor or Memorial Gift

Honor a loved one with a meaningful donation to the Arthritis Foundation. We'll send a handwritten card to the honoree or their family notifying them of your thoughtful gift.


Volunteer Opportunities

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We can only achieve these goals with your help. Strong, outspoken and engaged volunteers will help us conquer arthritis. By getting involved, you become a leader in our organization and help make a difference in the lives of millions. Join us and become a Champion of Yes.

More About Volunteering


Give Just 10 Minutes.

Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

Your shared experiences will help:

- Lead to more effective treatments and outcomes
- Develop programs to meet the needs of you and your community
- Shape a powerful agenda that fights for you

Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

How are you changing the future?

By sharing your experience, you’re showing decision-makers the realities of living with arthritis, paving the way for change. You’re helping break down barriers to care, inform research and create resources that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own.

Get Started



Meet Our Partners

As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability. Join us today and help lead the way as a Champion of Yes.


Our Trailblazers are committed partners ready to lead the way, take action and fight for everyday victories. They contribute $2,000,000 to $2,749,000


Our Visionary partners help us plan for a future that includes a cure for arthritis. These inspired and inventive champions have contributed $1,500,00 to $1,999,999.


Our Pioneers are always ready to explore and find new weapons in the fight against arthritis. They contribute $1,000,000 to $1,499,999.


Our Pacesetters ensure that we can chart the course for a cure for those who live with arthritis. They contribute $500,000 to $999,000.


Our Signature partners make their mark by helping us identify new and meaningful resources for people with arthritis. They contribute $250,000 to $499,999.


Our Supporting partners are active champions who provide encouragement and assistance to the arthritis community. They contribute $100,000 to $249,999.

More About Partnerships