Chicago rower Jenn Gibbons set off on a journey around Lake Michigan to raise money for breast cancer survivors. She completed her mission this week, even though she was sexually assaulted one night. She's back in Chicago now and shares her story with NBC 5's morning team.
Jenn Gibbons had two missions when she left Chicago June 15 to become the first person to row solo the 1,500-mile perimeter of Lake Michigan.
"One was to raise awareness for an amazing organization here in Chicago and really surrounding the fact that exercise reduces cancer recurrence," Gibbons told NBC Chicago Friday following the completion of her journey, "so I wanted to build awareness."
The other was to fund-raise for Recovery on Water, the outlet she founded for women to battle breast cancer.
Gibbons succeeded at both, receiving wide media coverage and raising more than $100,000 for her cause.
A role she didn't expect to adopt along the way was one of sexual assault victim. Gibbons said a man boarded her boat and assaulted her on July 22 while in an area south of Gulliver along Lake Michigan.
"When this happened, my motivation didn't change," Gibbons said. "I wanted to keep going, and I was able to continue because of women I work with who go to chemo in the morning and go to practice at night. These women are amazing."
Gibbons said she chose to share her experience because she needed help identifying her attacker, and she decided "from the very beginning I would share the good and the bad."
"With the investigation, we needed help figuring out who this is," she said. "We need the help of the public to identify this person."
Gibbons resumed her trip after biking 500 to 700 miles along the shoreline to make up for lost time. She traveled with a “pit crew” functioning as part road assistance and part security detail.
She finished her journey two months after it started on the shores of Chicago.
"It was so great to be home," Gibbons said. "When I saw the skyline and was rowing up I knew that this was the place I wanted to be."