After 10-year-old Jonathan Thacker died, the people closest to him created a nonprofit aimed at carrying on his brief but powerful legacy of love and compassion.
His friends and family said he thrived on letting the love of Jesus light up his world and sharing that light with everyone he met.
The Concord boy was killed in an automobile accident in 2008.
Since forming in 2010, The Jonathan Foundation has contributed about $4,500 to Cabarrus County charities. This year, it will give $3,700 in community grants and award a $3,000 college scholarship to a Cabarrus County high school senior.
The third annual Jonathan Foundation Golf Tournament will be March 18 at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis. Proceeds will benefit the foundation, which supports local children’s charities and raises money for an annual college scholarship.
This will be the first year the Jonathan Foundation Legacy Scholarship will be awarded. It will be given to a senior who displays characteristics consistent with Jonathan’s life: love of God and family, loyalty to friends, commitment to learning and a love for sports and fair play.
“The foundation was established to ensure the life Jonathan lived so fully would continue to touch lives, and that his legacy would be far-reaching,” said his mother, Sonja. “Positive examples, community grants, student scholarships, opportunities for children and adults to participate in sports for fun are all goals of the foundation.
“We hope to grow so that others may benefit from all that Jonathan loved and believed in.”
Fun for all ages
The golf tournament was designed as an opportunity for all ages to come together for a simple, fun day of golf. Sonja said youth participants and volunteers are a very special part of the tournaments.
Noah Norfleet, now 14, was one of Jonathan’s best friends. He said his late friend truly was one of a kind.
“He always had a smile on his face, no matter the situation,” Norfleet said. “Jonathan was always there for me, and that’s something that made him special.”
Norfleet described his friend as a strong Christian, who rarely missed church. The two loved to play baseball together.
“He was a prime example of what a good sport should be,” Norfleet said. “If someone got hurt, whether it be our team or not, he would always get the team together (to) pray…. I miss him a whole lot, but I know I will see him and his bushy blonde hair again someday.”
Lauren Swink, a seventh-grader who grew up with Jonathan, has volunteered at each tournament.
“He is unforgettable, and because of some of the things he did, I decided to change my softball number to ‘00,’ like Jonathan wore,” Swink said. “And I always play my sports with my ‘Jonathan’ bracelet in my back pocket. It comforts me.”
One day, Lauren said, she and Jonathan were playing in the backyard and she got stuck in a tree. Jonathan helped get her unstuck.
“Another time, I was afraid of a bee in the playhouse, and he told me not to worry,” she said. “I knew I could depend on him. He was a special comfort.”
Sonja said her little boy would be pleased with their effort.
“One of the things that make the activities of The Jonathan Foundation so important to us … is our knowledge that he would be so thrilled to know that others were able to benefit from something he contributed to,” Sonja said. “Make no mistake: This is his contribution, his life, his inspiration, his legacy. God is using Jonathan, although not the way we dreamed, certainly the way He intended.”
Sonja said her son loved to play any sport that used a ball, even as a toddler.
“He played soccer, baseball, basketball and golf,” she said. “He loved to participate in any game with his friends, and he loved to run.”
The thin, small-statured boy was always the smallest in a group, Sonja said, but his personality was the biggest.
“He never met a stranger and had real friends of all ages,” she added. “He spent several weeks helping his 89-year-old grandmother practice her road signs so she could renew her (driver’s) license. He knew them all perfectly, and she passed.”
Jonathan was eager to help others and aimed to please.
“He never wanted to think someone was angry with him or that he had done the wrong thing,” said Sonja. “When he was 7 or 8, he was angry with me for sending him to his room, and he climbed out his window without my knowledge.
“The doorbell rang and, when I opened the door, he was standing there with a small bag. I asked what he was doing, and he said, ‘I was going to run away, but I didn’t think Jesus would like it, so I’m going to my room.’ ”
Jonathan marched quietly up to his room.
A good sport
Once he was the star player on his soccer team.
“He was really the only one who knew how to play soccer,” Sonja said. “One of the little girls enjoyed doing cartwheels during the soccer games. The team never won a game, but every week, Jonathan ran all over the field, full of energy and excitement. He encouraged his team, complimented every effort, especially the cartwheels the little girl continued to practice and master.”
During soccer games, he often displayed characteristic sportsmanship. Once, a boy on the opposing team didn’t seem to know the game too well while, the rest of the team seemed very skilled.
“Jonathan made a point to encourage him, and he got so excited when the little boy scored a goal, even though it was against Jonathan’s team,” said Sonja. “He made such an impression that the officials presented him with an MVP pin. They said they had watched him week after week and had never seen a more encouraging child. He was so proud.”
Jonathan also left behind his brother, Joseph, and his dad, Todd.
“There is no way to tell you what we miss most; we miss absolutely everything,” Sonja said. “He was joy, and we miss every moment that was, and all of those that will never be.”
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