Featured Friend: Hero Jen Shares a River Safety Lesson for Us All

Meet Jen Chrostowski, lifelong resident of the Fox River Valley, recently garnering hero status right in her own backyard. Jen and her family live in unincorporated Algonquin Shores, a quiet, humble neighborhood on the east bank of the river hugging the northernmost border of Kane County.  Both Jen and her husband Jeremy grew up on the water. In fact, the home they have owned since 2016 is Jeremy’s childhood home, while Jen spent her early days on the Carpentersville banks, just downstream. After 35 years of living on the river and keeping a constant watchful eye on her own children near the water, Jen was as prepared as anyone can possibly be to take immediate action when a small child got swept away in the Fox River current just a few weeks back in early June. 


Here’s the Story:

Jen and her kids were playing out in the backyard while some neighborhood residents and their grandchildren played at the boat launch park on the next lot over.  The boat launch is a popular place for residents; children especially enjoy wading on the gravel bar, skipping rocks, and observing small fish and other aquatic animals. The water level was slightly high after May’s consistent rains which generated strong currents. One of the small children playing ventured too far out from the gravel bar and was swept away by the swift water. The child was not wearing a lifejacket. Jen saw the child go below the surface and remain under for a few seconds. Knowing that the water depth was even over her own head, she instinctively jumped in the river and pulled the child above water and safely to shore.  The child was terrified, but breathing and ok.  Jen said it was an emotional moment for everybody. She hugged the child like he was her own. The distraught grandparents and sibling were shaken, but relieved by the quick action taken by the day’s hero.


Jen has a clear message to share with all readers: respect the river.  She says if you want to play near or in the river, know how to swim and wear a life jacket.  Avoid recreating during times of high water and abide by river closures set by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. If you do get swept away, float on your back and move with the current as you make your way to shore. The American Red Cross warns us that even 6 inches of water can knock you off your feet and make it extremely difficult to stand up again. 

In a 20 yard stretch of river, where the young child was swept away, the depth quickly changes from a few gentle inches of water to a strong current
and 6 foot depth.

“The current can be unpredictable,” Jen reminds us.  And her spot is a great example of how variable river depth and current can be. The day we interviewed Jen, FOTFR took some photos showing how quickly the depth changes in front of Jen and Jeremy’s home.  A few inches of water transitions to a 6 ft deep hole over a 20 yard stretch of river. In some spots, the current was strong enough to make it a challenge to hold the net in place to take photographs. 

Jen doesn’t consider herself a hero, but many people do. Her humility is consistent with the Algonquin Shores culture. She likes that her lifestyle feels rural while being surrounded by suburbia.  Taking ownership of her peaceful, quiet place to raise her kids, she reiterates one more time that safety is always the number one priority when she and her family are enjoying the river and resident wildlife.

Thank you Jen Chrostowski for being a humble hero and Friend of the Fox River.  If you have a “take ownership” story, email us at info@friendsofthefoxriver.org.