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Carney served as inspiration for many

By Karen Zapf and Jodi Weigand
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

The annual Miles of Smiles race in Plum serves as an inspiration for organizer Chris Cooley.

The 5K run/one-mile walk Sunday, a day after the death of Plum resident Sunny Carney, took on extra special meaning for Cooley of Plum.

“We had 80 runners walk up (register) the day of (the event),” Cooley said.

“We've never had that happen.”

Cooley said the total number of participants – including runners, walkers and volunteers was about 450-500.

The Carney family was one of the beneficiaries of the fifth annual Miles of Smiles event at Boyce Park ski lodge.

The fundraiser, which began as Miles of Smiles for Sunny, was founded to help Carney pay for cancer treatments.

Alicia “Sunny” Jennings Carney of Plum died Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, after a 10-year fight with carcinoid cancer. She was 42.

Cooley said the event Sunday raised $7,500 for the Carney and the Nixon families, both of Plum, and the Croyle family of Murrysville. Lorri Nixon has leukemia. Kristin Croyle died in August from pancreatic cancer.

Cooley said he was particulary inspired by the young people — including Carney's sons who attended the event Sunday.

“What struck me most was the fortitude of the boys — Austen, Logan and Nolan,” Cooley said.

Cooley also credited another group — Serving Other Souls (SOS) — a student-based service organization he founded in May 2012 with stepping up to help out during the race.

“The maturity of the Carney boys and the SOS kids gave me the greatest joy on that day,” Cooley said.

Carney was diagnosed in 2004 with the rare endocrine disease, which spreads from organ to organ.

Relatives said she likely had suffered the first effects of the cancer more than a decade ago, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

She underwent three successful treatments in Switzerland to shrink tumors found in her liver, skull, spine, hips, legs shoulder, ovary and gallbladder.

Her illness got progressively worse over the summer. In the past few weeks, “she started preparing, getting her ducks in row so to speak, with a lot more strength than I would,” said her husband, Mark Carney.

“She went out Christmas shopping and got the boys the things she wanted to get in case she wasn't able to be there,” he said.

Carney was a stay-at-home mom who passionately pursued anything she could do with her children.

She was PTA president, made their Halloween costumes, took a cake-baking class so she could make their birthday cakes and involved them in her home-based wedding and family photographer business, her husband said.

“She did everything to the extreme in the positive sense,” Mark Carney said.

She also inspired carcinoid cancer patients across the globe through her weblog and then her book “The ‘Sunny' Side of Cancer.”

She also spoke at numerous cancer events locally.

“She was an inspiration to everybody in our town,” said family friend Lisa Lagnese of Plum.

“She is the strongest person I ever met in my life.”

In a tribute, Mark Carney posted an account of his wife's final 24 hours on her blog Sunday.

“I know how you lived and fought ... you lived more in 42 years than most will do in twice that amount of time,” he wrote.

In addition to her husband, Carney is survived by her children, Austen, Logan and Nolan; mother, Patricia Jennings; sisters Judy Phillips, Lynn Pesta and Sheila Fortes; and brothers Michael Jennings, James Jennings and Joseph Jennings.

She was preceded in death by her father, James Jennings.

Funeral arrangements were handled by Charles W. Trenz Funeral Home.

The family has asked that memorials be in the form of contributions to the Carney Family Fund, c/o S&T Bank, 2190 Hulton Road, Verona, PA 15147.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or



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