Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Olympian and Founder

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

 Olympian and founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation

“He is a living example of someone who not only gives you his time and knowledge but will help you see it through.”

Touted as one of the greatest athletes of all time, track and field star Jacqueline “Jackie” Joyner-Kersee has a lond relationship with Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club. A role model for many as the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the heptathlon and the first African American woman to win an Olympic Medal in the long jump, Jackie didn’t stop there. Driven by a passion to give to youth from her community a place to train, learn and enrich their lives, she founded her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation. Inspired by the closing of her neighborhood community center and with critical help from Mr. Mathews, Jackie grew the Foundation into the community resource it is today.  It was Mr. Mathews who brought community leaders together with Jackie in the late 1980 and helped her pull together a board for her nascent nonprofit with the goal of creating a youth sports facility in East St. Louis, her home town.

“Mr. Mathews was already doing what I wanted to do,” Joyner-Kersee recalled. “He was a visionary who had turned his vision into reality, and I was just a young girl talking about what I wanted to do.”

Joyner-Kersee recalled that Mr. Mathews talked up her effort with all the influential people in the community that he knew.

In 2000, after overcoming a number of challenges, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation opened its youth sports facility in East St. Louis, and it continues to thrive to this day with a mission to: “instill youth in the Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership.”

“Doing this work is a lot different than competing in track and field,” Joyner-Kersee said. “Mr. Mathews helped me so much in finding the right people and making sure everyone shared our vision. He is a living example of someone who not only gives you his time and knowledge but will help you see it through. He believed in me, and because he did he gave me the strength to do wonderful things in my community.”

—Jackie Joyner-Kersee