New families to get lift from Miles of Smiles race in Plum
Chris Cooley vividly remembers the emotion in the air in November during the annual Miles of Smiles event.
The fifth annual 5K Run and 1 Mile Fun Walk was held a day after the death of Sunny Carney, 42, of Plum, who battled carcinoid cancer. The fundraiser, which began as Miles of Smiles for Sunny, had been founded to help Carney pay for expensive cancer treatments.
“Sunny's legacy of fighting an incurable disease with grace, dignity and courage is what made her a living legend in this and other communities,” Cooley said.
Cooley, the Miles of Smiles organizer, is dedicated to continuing to make the annual race an opportunity to help others in need.
He and the other organizers are putting the finishing touches on the sixth Annual Miles of Smiles 5K Run and 1 Mile Fun Walk on Sept. 21 at the Boyce Park Ski Lodge in Plum.
Proceeds from this year's event are to benefit two Plum families — the Linharts and the Pinals. Cooley said to date, Miles of Smiles has raised about $65,000 to $75,000.
Bruce Linhart, 48, suffers from primary sclerosing cholangitis, a disease of the bile ducts that causes inflammation and subsequent obstruction. Linhart is awaiting a liver transplant.
Linhart said he is appreciative of organizers' efforts.
“Chris Cooley is incredible, and the generosity of the community is unbelievable,” Linhart said.
Also, Susan Ann (Clancy) Pinal, 36, a teacher and librarian at Oblock Junior High in the Plum School District, died May 30 from a pulmonary embolism or obstruction of a blood vessel in the lungs, usually due to a blood clot that blocks a coronary artery.
The family plans to use money it receives from Miles of Smiles for the future education of Pinal's young sons.
Mary Clancy, Pinal's mother, said she is thankful for the support.
“We are very appreciative of everything everyone is doing,” Clancy said. “I am so overwhelmed. People are so thoughtful.”
Cooley, 41, of Plum, aims for 300 runners and 100 to 150 walkers in this year's event.
“Anyone who is training for the (Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh) Great Race uses it (Miles of Smiles) as a warm-up for the Great Race,” Cooley said.
Cooley, a teacher in the Franklin Regional School District, said the annual event has multiple benefits.
“The race itself is more important for the emotional hug it gives people more than the money we generate for people,” Cooley said.
“They (the benefactors) remember.”
Mark Carney, Sunny Carney's husband, agreed.
“Sunny got such a boost, and we got a boost by going,” Carney said.
Cooley credits a group of young people — Serving Other Souls, a student-based service organization he founded in May 2012 — with stepping up during the race.
“I don't mandate they do it,” Cooley said. “But it's a fun opportunity to help someone.”
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or email@example.com.