Her husband predicted she’d break into sobs.
So did her coaches and friends at Orangetheory Fitness in Richland.
And, boy, were they right.
But don’t fret, Cassi Juell’s tears were the happy kind — the kind that well up and spill over uncontrolled when people you love do something so big, so unexpected, so uncommonly kind, just for you.
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“It’s unbelievable,” Juell said Saturday, tears streaming down her face after the big reveal. “I knew this gym was awesome, but it’s overwhelming how much everyone supports you and comes together for you.”
The 30-year-old West Richland woman lost her left leg below the knee in a car wreck in 2008.
She was living in Minnesota then. She’s since moved to Washington and built a life in the Tri-Cities with her husband, Andy, and their two young sons.
She’s also found a home at Orangetheory in Richland. Juell signed up last summer, before the gym even opened its doors, and quickly fell in love with its group classes, its staff and members.
But her prosthetic proved to be less than ideal during the gym’s intense workouts that mix running, rowing and weights.
It caused her discomfort. Sometimes her stump would bleed. She’d lose precious minutes of the hour-long sessions.
Getting a new prosthetic wasn’t an option because of the high cost. So the Orangetheory team decided to step in.
Dino Ramic, one of the gym’s coaches, first floated the idea of securing Juell a new prosthetic back in December.
Monique Thoelke, studio manager, took it from there.
She reached out to Andy Juell, who put her in touch with Chris Boosalis, Cassi’s original Minnesota prosthetist and close friend.
Wiggle Your Toes, a group that helps amputees, also got on board, and so did Kasey Johnson and his team at Columbia Basin Prosthetics & Orthotics in Kennewick.
Thoelke and the Orangetheory Richland crew started raising money — collecting donations and holding two days of special workouts in which members chipped in based on how many “splat points” they earned. (At Orangetheory, members get splat points for time spent in the upper heart rate zones).
All told, the gym raised $21,000, with Wiggle Your Toes kicking in $6,000.
Johnson and the Columbia Basin Prosthetics team, who made the new prosthetic and will handle fittings, donated their time.
And it was all done in secret. Juell had no idea.
It wasn’t until she was finished with her 12:15 p.m. class Saturday that it all became clear.
Thoelke stepped onto a treadmill and took over the microphone, as a crowd of coaches and members poured onto the gym floor. Gym owners Richard and Melissa Cote were on hand, too.
“Cassi, sorry for lying to you a little bit over the last couple months. But this day is completely all about you,” Thoelke said.
Then, Juell’s family walked out onto the floor, including her husband and kids, her father, her uncle and his family, and her mother-in-law.
Boosalis, the Minnesota prosthetist, also was there, having flown in especially for the reveal.
Juell started sobbing when she saw them, so many happy tears. Others in the gym wiped their eyes, too.
Thoelke spoke of Juell’s inspiring attitude. “That’s why we’re all here. You motivate all of us. And we are blessed that we’re part of your journey,” she said.
Then Ramic stepped up, talking of Juell’s infectious positivity — how she never complains and instead keeps pushing forward.
She’s shown that “no matter what happens to us in life, we always have a choice,” Ramic said. “We can weep and complain and blame our circumstances as to why we can’t do certain things, or we can have the heart and the desire to push through pain, because on the other side of that pain is the person that we’re meant to be.”
“We want to thank you for simply being you and slowly teaching and showing us that the limitations we put on ourselves are just that — limitations,” he said. “And limits are made to be broken.”
Johnson from Columbia Basin Prosthetics brought out Juell’s new leg, an OttoBock Challenger, designed for sprinting, distances and recreational sports.
The crowd cheered as Juell put it on and took her first steps.
Afterward, Andy Juell said he’s thrilled the surprise went off without a hitch. And he’s touched by how much his wife’s friends at Orangetheory care.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s a miracle. Good things happen to good people, and she deserves it.”
Cassi Juell was amazed by it all, too.
“If you haven’t checked out Orangetheory, you better get your butt in here. If not for the workout, for the friendships,” she said, tears welling up again, standing tall with her new leg. “It’s an awesome day.”