Mattie Stepanek

Mattie Stepanek wanted to be remembered as "a peacemaker, a poet, and a philosopher that played."

Mattie started to write at age three when his brother died. He called his poems "heart songs," or “gifts that reflect each person’s unique reason for being.”

Mattie Stepanek had a rare form of muscular dystrophy. He passed away at the age of 13, leaving behind a message of peace and hope.

Mattie Stepanek birthday
Credit: Karen Derrico

Mattie Remembered by His Mom, Jeni Stepanek

My Son, Mattie J. T. Stepanek

By: Jeni Stepanek

Read the essay on Mattie in My Hero: Extraordinary People on the Heroes Who Inspire Them

Dr. Jeni Stepanek

By: Slater Jewell-Kemker

MY HERO's Slater Jewell-Kemker interviews Dr. Jeni Stepanek in an in-depth interview. Available in text with audio.

Winners of the 2020 Mattie J.T. Stepanek Poetry Contest

Mattie J.T. Stepanek Poetry Contest Winners 2020
Credit: MY HERO

Films About Mattie

The films in this section highlight the poetry and humanity of Mattie Stepanek. Mattie's legacy continues to touch young and old alike with a sense of inspiration and hope.

Mattie Stepanek

Producer: Nathan Smith

A short animated tribute to poet hero Mattie Stepanek. The soundtrack features the St. Paul's Episcopal Day School choir singing a song inspired by one of Mattie's poems.

Jim Hawkins remembers Mattie

Producer: MY HERO

Children's Hospice Volunteer Jim Hawkins talks about his heroes, Mattie and Jeni Stepanek.

Films about Mattie's mother Jeni Stepanek

Mattie's mother Jeni has kept her son's legacy alive and has been a beacon of hope herself, touching everyday people as well as heroes among us.

Oprah's Surprise Visit to Jeni Stepanek

Produced by:Oprah Winfrey Network

Oprah visits Jeni Stepanek as she celebrates the miracle of another birthday. Jeni is the mother of Mattie Stepanek, one of Oprah's greatest spiritual teachers. Oprah says, "Jeni instinctively knew how to foster and encourage this precious gift to the world."

Jeni Stepanek Accepts the 2016 Humanitarian Award

Produced by:Jeni Stepanek

Jeni Stepanek accepts the 2016 MY HERO Project Humanitarian Award.

Featured Art

Mattie's message of peace inspires art that is joyous and celebrates hope and peace. 

Mattie and Micah

By: Karen Derrico

Collage painting of Mattie Stepanek with his dog, Micah, donated to the 2006 Heartsongs Gala, an annual event held in Mattie's honor.

The Greatest Gift

By: Mattie and Jeni Stepanek

Digital imagery by Mattie and Jeni Stepanek, his mom.

Teachers: Visit the free MY HERO Lesson Plan for Mattie Stepanek multimedia lesson plan. Includes discussion guide and learning outcomes.

Books by Mattie


By: Mattie J. T. Stepanek

Mattie put together his first book for a contest when he was in kindergarten, and it became a New York Times best-seller.

Journey through Heartsongs

By: Mattie J. T. Stepanek

Recommended by Oprah Winfrey, Mattie’s second book was written between ages 3 to 10. Foreword by Former President Jimmy Carter. 

Hope Through Heartsongs

By: Mattie Stepanek

Mattie's third book, written between ages 3 to 11, features poems he wrote on September 11, 2001. Foreword by spiritual author Gary Zukav.

Celebrate Through Heartsongs

By: Mattie Stepanek
Mattie's fourth book was written between the ages of 3 and 11. Foreword by Jerry Lewis, MDA National Chairperson. It was also a NY Times bestseller.

Loving Through Heartsongs

By: Mattie Stepanek

Mattie’s fifth book of poetry was the last published during his lifetime. Written between ages 3-12, it features a foreword by Dr. Maya Angelou.

Just Peace: A Message of Hope

By: Mattie J.T. Stepanek, Jennifer Smith Stepanek (Editor), Jimmy Carter (Forewo...

Mattie’s final book. A collection of peace essays, poetry, letters and photographs. Features a "forthword" by President Jimmy Carter.

Books About Mattie

Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J. T. Stepanek and Heartsongs

By: Jeni Stepanek, with Larry Lindner, Maya Angelou (Foreword by)

An NY Times bestseller: Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek, writes about Mattie's early life through last days. Foreword by Maya Angelou.


Mattie Stepanek Foundation
Credit: Mattie Stepanek Foundation


Short films curated by MY HERO International Film Festival director Wendy Milette


Hero Stories curated by MY HERO General Editor and Story Director Abigail Richardson 


Audio curated by MY HERO Audio director Stu Pearlman. 

Organizer created on 6/28/2017 7:30:16 PM by Jun Kelly

Last edited 7/14/2023 2:19:10 PM by Anthony Pouw