Jackie Joyner-Kersee, winner of six Olympic Medals, is one of the “50 Great Athletes of all time” according to ESPN. She is the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the heptathlon, the first African American woman to win an Olympic Medal in the long jump and the first woman to score 7,000 points in the heptathlon. Born and raised in East St. Louis, Jackie is committed to ensuring that all children have access to high quality after-school programs, safe recreational places within their communities, and caring adults to help them achieve their dreams. Jackie launched the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in Los Angeles and moved it to East St. Louis in 1995. Inspired by the closing of her neighborhood community center, Jackie grew the Foundation by raising over $12 million to expand programming and built a comprehensive youth and sports facility and campus that opened in 2000.
Born in East St. Louis, Illinois, Jackie is the 2nd of 4 children born to Al and Mary Joyner and is considered throughout the world to be 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. Jackie is the winner of six (6) Olympic Medals, (3 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze) in four (4) consecutive Olympic Games.
Over the last three years the Foundation has strengthened its Board by taking on new members, undergoing an extensive strategic board development and planning process, and completing a needs assessment and strategic plan. The very active fifteen member Board is diverse and includes professionals from the banking, legal, business, athletic, community development, non-profit, and marketing sectors.
In 1993, a task force chaired by Mr. Fennoy began to look at the possibility of reopening the Mary Brown Center. A plan was fashioned that would restore athletic facilities in Lincoln Park and acquire land for a track. The cost estimate for a 10-year project – including renovations and additions – was $7.5 million. However, the project was scuttled because of a lack of money and political roadblocks.
In 1995, the Foundation moved to Saint Louis. The Kersee’s had a blueprint in mind. They saw the Foundation becoming a broad-based anchor in the Saint Louis region, able to provide leadership on many fronts. But there was no established timetable. Much of the organization’s mission – leadership programs for youth in urban areas across the country and funding to address community deterioration – had been put on hold until Jackie completed her Olympic track and field career. She won six medals (three gold, one silver, two bronze) over four consecutive Olympic Games. She was the first woman to surpass 7,000 points in the heptathlon and the first American female to become Olympic champion in the long jump. She was named greatest female athlete of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated for Women.
Also in 1995, the East Saint Louis Youth Center Foundation came into being, the result of lengthy discussions among Ralph Korte, a major builder, Martin L. Mathews, a founder of the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and Dr. Earl Lazerson, president emeritus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. At the time, Mathews-Dickey was conducting an outreach initiative in East Saint Louis called the East Saint Louis Youth Project. It offered recreation, education and developmental programs. Primary funders were the Greater East Saint Louis Community Fund, Inc., Furniture Brands, Inc., and United Way of Greater Saint Louis.
On July 28, 1995, an organization meeting was held. Incorporators were Mr. Korte, president, Mr. Mathews, Ms. Linda Darnece Jones and Lois E. Tiemann, treasurer of the Greater East Saint Louis Community Fund. The incorporators appointed the following to the board of directors:
Mr. Lazerson, William S. Badgley, James D. Bess, James H. Davis, Dr. Herschel L. Garrett Jr., Tom Holley, William Koman Sr., Judson Picard, Ted Savage, Jackie Smith.
The Concept that Mr. Korte, Mr. Mathews and Mr. Lazerson had was a youth facility in the city. A site survey by Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville suggested Kenneth Hall Park in East Saint Louis as a likely location for the facility.
In the autumn of 1995, Mr. Korte and Mr. Mathews spoke with the Kersees about merging the Foundations. The inquiry was greeted warmly by the Kersees, whose vision of a community center was similar to that of Mr. Korte, Mr. Mathews and Mr. Lazerson. Agreement was reached on both sides to move ahead.
Watch a short video about the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation