The first time I saw Mattie I was sucked into his life. It was on the Oprah show. Mattie was born on July 17, 1990, with a rare form of muscular dystrophy that resulted in his death on June 22, 2004— a month before his 14th birthday. His sister and two brothers also died from the disease during early childhood, and his mother has the adult form, diagnosed only after all four of her children were born.
A New York Times bestselling author, with six books of poetry and one book of essays, Mattie also became a peace advocate and motivational speaker. He lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of peace, people with disabilities, and children with life-threatening conditions. At the age of three, Stepanek started to write poetry to cope with the death of his older brother. Mattie’s first five books are: Heartsongs, Journey Through Heartsongs, Hope Through Heartsongs, Celebrate Through Heartsongs and Loving Through Heartsongs. All five works made the bestsellers list. He wrote that a "'Heartsong' is a person's special gift to be shared with others ... or a person's 'reason for being.'" Mattie’s philosophy for life was “Remember to play after every storm!” and he wanted to be remembered as “a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played.”
Since Mattie’s death, numerous parks, libraries, peace programs, and awards have been named in his honor, and many schools are using Mattie’s writings and his message of hope and peace as an educational and motivational tool for teaching students. The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a volunteer-run not-for-profit organization established in 2005 to continue spreading the message of hope and peace offered by late poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek.If you'd like to find out more about Mattie and his amazing legacy, please click the link below: