BRIDGEPORT — An organization that aids local breast cancer patients and survivors through rowing classes is now inspiring and helping people across the country, thanks to its inclusion in a national ad campaign for Gap's new athletic line.
The women of Recovery on Water — ROW for short — are not only featured in advertising materials for Gap's athletic line, Athleta: the group also helped design Athleta's new sports bra for breast cancer survivors, and proceeds from sales of the "Power of She" bra will go back to the local charity.
Recovery on Water teaches breast cancer patients and survivors how to row, which in turn gives them much needed exercise through their battle. It also acts as a support network and a reprieve from the stresses of living with cancer.
The group's story and mission fit well with the Athleta, which was seeking to show strong and empowered women facing difficult circumstances. After a brief interview period, the charity was selected as the face of the clothing company's new campaign.
"Stories like the women of ROW inspired us to co-create the Empower Bra with breast cancer survivors," Athleta's website reads. "Each sister is a survivor and so much more, using the sport of rowing to be her strongest self, both physically and emotionally."
Recovery on Water's cofounder, Jenn Junk, said the company reached out about three months ago and then began interviewing individual team members, some of whom are now featured prominently in the ad campaign.
"They loved what we stood for and wanted to learn more," said Jenn Junk, co-founder of the team. "As the conversations continued, I started to realize what a big deal this was."
Now, the team's members are the face of Athleta's new bra for women who've had mastectomies. Members can be seen modeling the bra alongside testimonials about their experiences with cancer.
In July, the company shut down a portion of the Chicago River near the Eleanor Street Boathouse in Bridgeport to shoot a video about the group. For the women, the shoot was a rewarding opportunity, Junk said.
"It felt special," Junk said. "It was glamorous. A lot of us on the team don't get up and put on makeup like that. They were pampered. At that point we realized how big this is."
The women were even able to give input on Athleta's new products, and next week, Junk will travel to Athleta's headquarters in San Francisco to learn how much the group could stand to receive from the sales contribution.
One thing Junk would like to do, depending on how much is raised for the group, is to expand to it other cities. She said she's already received calls from breast cancer survivors from across the country, saying how their group is an inspiration.
"What's great is the women in Chicago are inspiring people everywhere," Junk said. "Breast cancer survivors are often portrayed as victims, or as weak. This shows survivors as the strong warriors they are."
The women of Recovery on Water pose for a photo at the Eleanor Street Boathouse for Athleta's new ad campaign. [Athleta]