by Kenna McDonald
I first met Jenn while she was a receptionist at my former employer. I was still new to the company, and of all the receptionists, she seemed the most friendly. I remember noting in my mind that she seemed like someone I’d like to know better.
Lucky for me, she was quickly promoted to a position that was seated in the cubicle next to me. We became instant friends, chatting often and eventually becoming lunch buddies. Jenn and I sat staring at our computer screens each day sharing how
we both felt we were equipped to do something completely different with our lives than sit in a corporate office, wasting the time away doing something we didn’t love. It was there that Jenn started to dream up Recovery on Water. Somehow, she weaseled her way into having me help with the early stage finances of the organization.
I’m glad she asked for my help. Through Jenn, I was able to meet the amazing women that started ROW, and I was giving back to an organization that meant a lot to Jenn and the members of her team. She inspired me and so many others to take
part in ROW. Soon, Jenn quit her corporate job and was growing ROW in ways only someone like Jenn could.
While working as Treasurer for ROW, I quickly learned that Jenn is the type of person that says “yes” to everything and then figures out the “how” later. This went against my accountant-like operating style, and during the time that I served as Treasurer for ROW, it was a frustration for me. Where I am pessimistic, Jenn is always enthusiastic. Where I am methodical, Jenn is spontaneous. I am cautious. Jenn is an adventurer. Jenn’s affirmative attitude and passion drove the organization to grow better than any bean-counter like me could ever dream. Her figure-out-the-details-later style landed her in the seat of an ocean-rowing vessel, taking on Lake Michigan to raise money for her cause.
So, when Jenn decided to continue her journey via bike, despite the most ominous obstacles, I decided to finally throw caution to the wind. In a moment of “Jenn,” I committed to biking a day with her and figuring out the “how” later. I borrowed a bike from a friend, donned my husband’s bike shorts (ack – somehow they fit!), and showed up at Jenn’s camp on Saturday morning.
Despite the early hour and all that had transpired since the attack, Jenn was her same-old, beautiful, shiny self. She greeted me warmly, and made me feel so at ease with the day’s miles ahead. Once again, Jenn was putting others before herself.
The 75-mile ride around the Leelanau Peninsula was long, picturesque, and fun. Jenn and her entourage made for a motley crew of humorous and fit bikers. Jenn was like our Forrest Gump. Wherever she was going….she was riding! Jenn’s attitude toward another day of riding was amazing to me (my ‘undercarriage’ was less than enthusiastic after the first set of miles). “How does she do it?” I asked myself throughout the day. While climbing up hills or getting on the bike again after a break, I’d remind myself that if Jenn can do six consecutive days of biking (not to mention re-join Liv and row the rest of the way to Chicago), I surely should be able to endure one day. Once we arrived at our destination in Glen Arbor, MI, I was rewarded with some quality time with good ol’ Jenn. I hadn’t seen Jenn in months, but despite all that she had been through since the last time I saw her, she was her lovely, smiling, energetic self. While juggling press calls, logistics, and the aftermath of a sexual assault, Jenn was bubbly, fun, and inspiring. Jenn made the initial commitment to take on the perimeter of Lake Michigan. After a sexual assault, she decided to continue via bike. There’s even talk of her writing a book about her story. Do I think she’s nuts? Yes, my risk-averse self thinks she’s wild, but my inner goddess is jealous and wants to grow up and be like Jenn. Jenn has a unique attitude that nothing can or ever will hold her back. She’s my real-life Forrest Gump.
Never did I doubt, while we were staring blankly into computer screens back in that Chicago corporate office, or now while she returns to Lake Michigan and Liv, that Jenn would make good of it all. Go Jenn, Go!