East Hanover’s Johnny Kinney Inspires and Amazes


By Alexander Rivero, Staff Writer


We are so much more than the sum of our parts. But if we took the parts of East Hanover native Johnny Kinney, summed them up, and multiplied them by the power of ten, he’d probably be more than even that number as well. 

      In November of 2020, after feeling a pain in his kneecaps while playing football, Johnny’s orthopedic surgeon found a tumor in his femur bone while conducting a rudimentary X-ray. Within twenty-four hours, that surgeon had contacted a colleague of his at Morristown Medical Center (MMC), and a couple of days later, Johnny was fitted by hospital staff with an immobilizing brace on that leg. In just a matter of a few days, the Kinney family’s life was turned upside down. A competitor by nature, Johnny spent weeks with a broken femur bone without telling anyone, and without anyone finding out. 

“We had no idea,” says his mother, Gayle Kinney. “He has always handled pain extraordinarily well.”

The week after the original diagnosis, Johnny started chemotherapy, and by March of 2021, he had limb-saving surgery—a ten-hour procedure that for Johnny took seventeen hours. The saving of his leg was a major concern for him and his family, and they were all relieved at the success of the operation. 

“There were lots of complications with the loss of bloodflow to the leg, which would have turned his bone into a prosthetic bone if the blood flow couldn’t be restored,” says Gayle, “and over the next three days he had an additional three surgeries. But now we’re at a year later, and he still has his leg.” 

Declared cancer-free on November 1, 2021, Johnny had his follow-up scans in early February 2022 to find that the cancer had metastasized into his right lung. On February 22, he went in for a thoracotomy on that lung. At the time of this writing, he is awaiting the same procedure to be done on his left lung, and after this, he will undergo another scan to show that the lungs are clear. The Kinney family will be proceeding with an immunotherapy medication, which has a much more positive outlook on patients with metastization of cancer cells into the lungs.   

None of this, however, is enough to deter Johnny for a second. Both his parents and sister are extraordinarily proud of him, not only for being able to pull through, but for doing so in such a heroic and unfazed manner. 

“My son—the strength he has is simply inspirational to us as parents,” says John Kinney IV, Johnny’s father. “I feel I’ve become a better man in this entire process, that I should be the man he is. As a child, he just doesn’t have that fear. He just takes it all in stride. He assures us that everything is going to be just fine. He’s very candid. He tells us not to worry.” 

A passionate sports enthusiast, Johnny cites riding a bicycle again as a primary long-term goal he is striving to achieve. He counts Domino’s pizza and chocolate cake as some of his favorite foods, and basketball and football as his favorite sports to not only play but to watch, and study. 

“He knows about the leagues, the history of the sports, the all-time greats,” says his mother. “He’s literally a genius when it comes to those things. And it’s impressive.” 

Throughout this difficult journey, the community of East Hanover has gone above the call of duty in supporting the Kinney family, delivering everything from cards and posted notes on their doorstep to homecooked meals. The police department had a ramp installed to the Kinneys’ front door so that Johnny can access it with his wheelchair. 

John says,  “Throughout all of this, we’ve been completely overwhelmed by this community’s generosity. I can’t say it enough. If not for this township’s support, I don’t know where we would be. Knowing we have a homecooked meal waiting for us on any given one of these nights, knowing that there is a whole group of people legitimately concerned about what is going on and on what they can do to help us, all of this allows us to function, to go to work.” 

Gayle adds, “It may sound silly, but all those random cards and messages—they mean a lot. That’s what helps me. To know that there’s a whole group of people out there thoughtful enough to keep us in mind and show that kind of support.” 

 Both John and Gayle Kinney made it a point to mention their younger daughter, Madelin, and the extent to which she has had to endure the arduous process of the last year. Her mother calls her a “warrior child”, and her father is quick to point that she has been “struggling right there alongside us the whole way.” 

Marisa Jones, a close friend of the Kinneys, started up a Facebook page called “We Are Johnny Strong”, and documents the Kinneys’ heroic journey throughout the previous year. The page also shares pictures of Johnny and loved ones as they participate in a myriad of activities. 

Asked what we can do to help, Gayle is quick to respond: “More prayers, cards, messages. To know that there are so many people wishing us well in this difficult time helps more than anyone can ever know. But if there is one thing that we do need is more prayers.”

To donate to the Go Fund Me, visit gofundme.com/f/zuj2xn-johnny-strong.  


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