|Jackie Joyner-Kersee is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. Sports Illustrated for Women voted Jackie Female Athlete of the 20th Century and ESPN named her one of the 50 Greatest Athletes. She received these honors by becoming the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the seven disciplined event, heptathlon; the first woman to score 7,000 point in the heptathlon; and the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the long jump, all on her way to winning 6 Olympic Medals (3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze) in 4 consecutive Olympic Games.
Off the track, Jackie always determined to give back, continues to keep her personal promise to be a contributing citizen of the metropolitan East and St. Louis community. Her world class philanthropic deeds are praised worldwide. She has amazed everyone and disappointed no one, as she works to enhance the lives of children worldwide; champions the causes of asthma awareness, education and healthy lifestyles.
As a young girl growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois, Jackie participated in many activities at the Mary Brown Center, including track, dance and volleyball to name a few. Jackie often quips “if there was sign-up sheet for an activity, I would put my name on every one.” The center’s impact on Jackie life was considerable. Her participation there played a key role in the development of her own character and laid the foundation for her athletic successes in track and field. Aware of the important role the center played her own life, when it closed Jackie wanted more than anything else to know, “What do the youth in the city do now?” That was Jackie’s motivation to build the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee realized a vision when she proudly opened the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center a safe haven for young people to come learn, play and contribute back to their community. The JJK Center provides services to thousands of families and youth in the metropolitan St. Louis area. The Center offers a variety of educational and recreational activities for youth and adults including; after-school tutoring, youth sports leagues, nutrition and health education, fitness and meals for seniors, as well as other important community related programs. The Center is an integral part of impacting and revitalizing the East St. Louis community and their youth.
While Jackie has garnered various awards and honors, including the Jesse Owens Award, Sullivan Award, Volunteers of America Humanitarian Award, the Trumpet Award, CORE Dr. MLK Jr. Outstanding Achievement Award, and 8 Honorary Doctorates, Jackie states she has accomplished a great deal “through” athletics. She infuses the same philosophy at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center. Focusing on education through recreation, the programs at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center incorporate learning through fun activities. One of Jackie’s signature programs, Winning In Life brings together Olympic and elite athletes and more 900 female athletes for a 2-day event, driven by a roundtable discussion and culminating with a track and field competition. The goal, sessions that helps to develop well-rounded young people who will become contributors to their community.
Jackie’s commitment to causes she supports have prompted her to serve on various board committees dedicated the enriching, teaching and empowering lives, including Nike’s All-American Camp and Co-Chair w/Michael Jordan, Nike’s P.L.A.Y.(Participate in the Lives of America’s Youth) Program, Women’s Health Initiative Program, America Belongs to our Children. She was the first woman to serve as President of the St. Louis Sports Commission, focusing a special emphasis on grass root programs. Jackie has served on President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and her work garnered the honor of being inducted in the Boys & Girls Club of America Hall of Fame. In 2007 Jackie received the National Urban League’s Women of Power Award. She was also awarded the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) highest honors as a recipient of the IOC Women and Sport Trophy. She received this honor for her active role in the advancement of girls through sport. Her compassion and commitment helping others remain unwavering as she simply states, “Giving is a kind of grace”.
The author of two books, A Woman’s Place is Everywhere and her autobiography, A Kind of Grace, Jackie is continuously traveling the country as a motivational speaker, bringing awareness to causes and initiatives she is passionate about and working to involve more corporations, sponsors and community groups in advancing her Foundation’s programs and initiatives worldwide.