BTN spotlights Chicago rower’s life-changing journey
The courageous odyssey of a Chicago woman who sailed the perimeter of Lake Michigan alone in a rowboat is the subject of an inspiring documentary to premiere Monday.
Cameras from Chicago-based TeamWorks Media recorded the journey of Jenn Gibbons earlier this year as she overcame unimagined physical and emotional challenges to achieve her goal and raise awareness and money for breast cancer research.
Her story will be presented as part of BTN LiveBIG, airing at 6:30pm Monday on Big Ten Network, the Chicago-based joint venture of the Big Ten Conference and Fox Networks. The eight-episode series profiles Big Ten alums, students and supporters who “live big” in their service to others.
Gibbons, 27, a native of Battle Creek, Michigan, and graduate of Michigan State University, founded Recovery on Water (ROW), a rowing team and support group for breast cancer survivors, two years after she moved to Chicago in 2006. She set out on her 1,500-mile course in June.
Along the way she encountered rough weather, loneliness and exhaustion, sharing her reactions with the cameras mounted on her custom-built rowboat. The greatest calamity of all occurred about halfway through her journey when Gibbons was sexually assaulted by a man who boarded her vessel while it was moored along the shore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Despite the trauma of her ordeal — and the weeklong criminal investigation that followed — Gibbons persevered. To make up for lost time, she biked more than 500 miles until she was back on schedule and back onboard her boat. In completing her mission, she raised more than $125,000 for her organization.
“I still think there’s more good people in the world than bad,” Gibbons told the legion of fans and media who greeted her triumphant arrival back home in August. “I think everyone has the opportunity to give back to something even when people try to take things away from you.”