Heaven & Hell: Jackie Thornton

Jackie Thornton of the Community Sports Foundation 

Jackie Thornton of the Community Sports Foundation - Credit: Archant

Jackie is a Norfolk girl with a passion for sport and football that landed her a dream job with Norwich City Football Club. After university, Jackie became one of the first girls and women’s development officers in the country, and has been at the charity Community Sports Foundation for 23 years, continually introducing new skills to share with those participating. This has helped it become a reputable, sustainable organisation, one that helps thousands of people every year.  Here she talks to Gina Long...

Q: What’s the impact of COVID-19 been on you, and how are you adapting?

A: It’s been a very difficult year for so many charities and we were in the middle of a £4.6m capital fundraising campaign which was really tough. All our events raising vital funds for our ongoing work in the community were affected, but we had to focus helping people in various ways that also included helping our staff. During lockdown the players, the head coach and the executive team at the Club donated £250,000 and together we created the Canaries Covid-19 Community projectFrom food parcels, to PPE delivery to 720 Delia-made cakes for Norfolk Care home staff, we felt we needed to help where possible. Whilst it felt rewarding it did share perspective to the challenges many were also facing. We had to adapt our working ways regarding to how projects and facilities where engaging and go and help others where possible

Q: What is your connection to East Anglia?

A: I've lived here all my life, and although I moved away for university, I returned to my dream job. It’s where we’ve raised our family. I grew up on my parent's farm in Mundesley, which was such a positive experience. Now within my role as head of development at the Community Sports Foundation we aim to support, inspire and improve our community,  Having a connection to people and communities is and has always been really important to me.

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Q: What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

A: Mundesley Beach. We are lucky enough to have a beach hut so we can spend a lot of time there. I love the beautiful sunrise along the Norfolk coastline, especially having an early morning swim with the kids.

Jackie Thornton on the beach in Norfolk

Jackie's happy place is the Norfolk coast - Credit: Jackie Thornton

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Q: What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

A: Travel is a bit of an issue because of how long it takes to get anywhere else, though it gives the area a quaint, untouched feel unlike anywhere else in Britain.

Q: What are your favourite East Anglian restaurants?

A: Cromer No.1 is our go-to for a family meal of great local fish and chips. In Norwich City centre, you can't beat drinks and a meal in Rooftop Gardens with your friends, with great views of the city.

Q: What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

A: Holkham Beach, whilst its iconic for many reasons,  forms a key part of our Coastal Challenge (47 mile walk). It’s the most beautiful backdrop for a long walk and photo.

Q: What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

A: Run Norwich is a great way to get the community together for a brilliant cause. It creates a great buzz in the city. My favourite event happens every other week, at the Norwich City home matches at Carrow Road!

Q: What's your specialist Mastermind subject?

A: I'm a jack of all trades but master of none! My job has made me very adaptable in many situations. From football coaching and managing a large construction project,  to fundraising £6.3 million to build The Nest.

Q: What is always in your fridge?

A: I don't spend enough time in the kitchen to cook with my busy lifestyle, so as long as I have a pint of milk for the emergency tea or cereal for the kids, I can't go wrong.

Q: What’s your simple philosophy of life?

A: ‘Get stuff done’. I’m very impatient and if I see a problem that I can help solve, I just want to get on with it. This means I can get a little too hands on at times!

Q: What’s your favourite film?

A: Sweet Home Alabama

Q: What was your first job?

A: I worked at Mundesley beach in the huts with my grandparents, putting out deck chairs and telling people to get off the trampolines because their five minutes were up! It was how I spent many summer days in my youth.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

A: My family, including our cockapoo, Dixie.

Q: Who do you admire most?

A: I most admire people that take risks to try something different. My grandad, mum and dad always used their entrepreneurial skills to do this, whilst also always having the community in their hearts.

Jackie Thornton at the launch of The Nest 

Jackie Thornton at the launch of The Nest - Credit: Jackie Thornton

Q: What is your biggest indulgence?

A: Holidays. I love to travel. A hot holiday in the summer and a winter ski holiday gets me through the year. Unfortunately,  I don’t think that will be achieved this year!

Q; What do you like about yourself most?

A: Probably how I never give up, even when I'm told I can’t do something. I won't stop until I get it done.

Q: What’s your worst character trait?

A: I take on too much because I'm so stubborn and want things done quickly.

Q: Where is your favourite holiday destination?

A: Dubai.

Q: Best day of your life?

A: My Wedding proposal, in the Maldives. We picked up the ring on the way back and got married shortly after. May have something to do with me just wanting to get on with it!

Q: What’s your favourite breakfast?

A: I quite like a sausage sandwich, with a caramel latte from the Nest, best coffee around.

Q: What’s your favourite tipple?

A: Gin and tonic, though it has to be the Whitley Neil Rhubarb and Ginger.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

A: Walking 47 miles over 24 hours, sometimes twice in a year, fundraising for the Foundation.

Q: What’s your earliest memory?

A: Sitting with my dad on his tractor, combining the fields on our family farm.

Q: What would you like played at your funeral?

A: Somewhere over the rainbow, The Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version, it’s my daughter's favourite song.

Q: Tell us something people don’t know about you?

A: I played football for England Universities and was Student Union president at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Q: What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

A: Personally, when I was told my mum had a stroke. She is our rock for me, our children and family. She has made great progress, but things are different. Professionally, it was when one of the largest funders of the Nest capital project said they wouldn’t fund it, putting the whole project in jeopardy.

Q: What do you want to tell our readers about most?

A: The difference the Community Sports Foundation makes, and the passion from those behind it. Setting up the NCFC girls Academy, building Carrow Park and setting up Run Norwich have all been projects I have been very proud to work with our team on. The Nest has been my life for so many years, we are super proud of what the team and all our supporters have enabled us to build. So please consider visiting us or check out our website communitysportsfoundation.org.uk

If you have a story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: @ginalong_geewizz

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