Today, 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 points 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.
Committed to giving on and off the track, Jackie is a leader in the philanthropic community, dedicated to helping the youth of her native St. Louis. 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. 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’s 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. When it closed, Jackie asked, “What do the youth in the city do now?” That was Jackie’s motivation to build the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in 2000, 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 JJK Center is an integral piece in the revitalization of the East St. Louis community and its youth.
One of Jackie’s signature programs, Winning in Life, brings Olympic and elite athletes together with more than 1,000 female athletes for a two-day event including a roundtable discussion and a track and field competition. The goal is to build well-rounded young people who will become contributors to their communities.
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.