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Jen is survived by the most amazing son she could ask for, Corbin age 6; an incredibly loving and emotionally generous family; parents Fred and Nancy Arnold; brother Eric (Christy) Arnold; and sister Sara (Noah) Hurst. Jen is also survived by her nephew Jaxson Arnold, an extended family in Ohio, and truly countless friends throughout the United States. Jen was preceded in death by her grandparents, Bob and Marcille Sinclair; uncle, John Sinclair; and cousins Leah Arnold and Dusty Schwendeman. Jen was also preceded in death by countless friends who were also diagnosed with breast cancer.
After graduating from Champaign Central High School in 1995, Jen traveled from one end of the state (SIUC) to the other (UIC) to earn her bachelor and master degrees in social work. Jen always had a desire to help others. This passion grew as she volunteered on 6 different mission trips with the Appalachia Service Project and Operation Hogar, both through Faith United Methodist Church where she was an active member. Jen had a strong faith and wore it proudly having a cross supporting a pink ribbon tattooed on her foot as a reminder that God was with her every step of her journey.
A social worker by education, Jen spent almost 10 years working with students as an advisor and advocate at Parkland College. In each job Jen had at Parkland, she was the first in that position, using her strengths to shape and mold them into a successful career. As the Student Development Advocate to the Title III Director to the Student Services Advisor, Jen’s dedication to her students was clear. In addition to working directly with students, Jen was a key figure in the Parkland Pathway to Illinois program. She also envisioned and led the “It’s a Parkland Thing” ad campaign featuring local student athletes.
Jen’s zest for life was unsurpassed. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30, she didn’t let her diagnosis define her even when the cancer returned and spread. Due to her passion for education, understanding and awareness, Jen shared her own personal story to educate others and their friends and families who might also be struggling with the same disease. Jen helped to launch the Champaign-Urbana affiliate of Young Survival Coalition, a national organization for young women facing breast cancer, and was a member of its Leadership Council. Jen helped educate, empower, and support hundreds of young women diagnosed with this disease through speaking at high school and college classes as well as national conferences; writing a blog and two books and mentoring many women one-to-one through Imerman Angels.
Jen was a fiercely loyal friend. Her family and friends joked that Jen couldn’t go somewhere without running in to someone she knew as she was such a social butterfly. Jen radiated compassion, warmth, and integrity with everyone she came into contact with and continuously added so much value to her friendships and received so much love in return.
Jen received many awards including the “Central Illinois Business 40 Under 40,” the “Illini Radio Group’s 20 Outstanding Women You Should Know,” “Chambana Moms To Know,” and was inducted in to the Parkland College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011 as the athletic contributor. Most recently named a 2013 Pink Power Mom. Jen was also a “giver” and donate 789 ounces of breast milk to the International Breast Milk Project which provides breast milk to critically ill infants around the world. Jen surprised everyone when she published her memoir “Learning to Live Legendary” to capture the magical year of 2011. Jen continued to educate others about the reality of metastatic breast cancer when she wrote and published, “What You Might Not Know: My Life as a Stage IV Cancer Patient.” She considered her most important “award” her son, Corbin.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, October 5th from 4 pm to 7 pm and a Celebration of Life service will be held at Sunday, October 6th at 2 pm. Both will be held at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 South Prospect Avenue, Champaign, IL 61820.
The family is compiling a memory book for Corbin; please send your memories and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. Memorials may be directed to either the Corbin Smith Fund at First Federal Savings Bank, 1912 West Springfield Avenue, Champaign, IL 61821 or the Imerman Angels organization which provides one-to-one cancer support at 205 W. Randolph, 19th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606.