Young Poet and Peacemaker Hero Mattie Stepanek passed away on the morning of June 22, 2004. Mattie’s poems of peace and hope have touched millions of lives; his heartsongs will continue to reach people of all ages around the world for decades to come.
Visitors are invited to add their thoughts about this courageous young man to MY HERO's guestbook honoring Mattie.
POET AND PEACEMAKER MATTIE STEPANEK
Photo by Jim Hawkins
Facing the Future
Every journey begins
With but a small step.
And every day is a chance
For a new, small step
In the right direction.
Just follow your Heartsong.
by Mattie Stepanek
From the book HOPE THROUGH HEARTSONGS by Mattie J.T. Stepanek. Copyright (c) 2002 Mattie J.T. Stepanek. Published by Hyperion. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
When Jim Hawkins of Children's Hospice International nominated Mattie as a hero on this Web site, the young poet hero was only six years old and had already written several hundred poems. Mattie was suffering from a hereditary disease called dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy. This rare form of muscular dystrophy had already claimed the lives of his three older siblings. Mattie's mother, Jeni, also suffers from this disease.
Jim wrote this about Mattie in the MY HERO guestbook...
"Little Mattie has somehow acquired more wisdom in his short life than most of us do after decades of living. Through his poetry, he expresses wisdom in a way that touches anyone's heart. With his unabashed enthusiasm for life Mattie has charmed everyone who has crossed his path.In 1997, Mattie and Jeni shared his remarkable poetry with the children of all ages who come to this educational Web site. Children's Wish Foundation gave Mattie a computer and he was able to view his poems online along with the comments of visitors inspired by his work. Later, Mattie shared three wishes with his friends at MDA Camp, Children's Hospice International and MY HERO. The first wish was to publish a book of his poetry, the second was to meet his hero, former President Jimmy Carter, and the third wish was to appear on Oprah. Remarkably, by the end of 2001, all three of these wishes had come true.
Mattie has inspired many people, young and old, to overcome every obstacle they may encounter and strive for their goals with dignity and humanity. THANK YOU, MATTIE!"
In July, 2001, VSP Books and Hyperion Books joined forces to publish Mattie's book of poems, Heartsongs. Not surprisingly, it has become a national best seller. Hyperion signed Mattie to a three-book deal. The publishers have released Mattie's second book, Journey through Heartsongs. His third book, Hope through Heartsongs, was released in April of 2002.
In September, 2001, when Mattie was in the hospital, staff workers arranged for him to have a phone conversation with his hero, Jimmy Carter. According to those who witnessed the 15-minute chat, Mattie, whose selflessness is beyond reproach, talked to President Carter about problems in Bosnia and Africa, and not, as one would expect, about his own health complications. Incredibly, after speaking to Mattie, the former president decided to write the foreward to Mattie's second book, Journey through Heartsongs. A month later, Diane Sawyer and her staff at Good Morning America surprised Mattie with his first face-to-face meeting with President Carter on live TV.
On October 19, 2001, Mattie's third wish came true. Mattie was featured on Oprah and spoke with Winfrey about his books, his love for poetry and life, and his desire to be a peacemaker in the world. Oprah then read her favorite excerpts from Mattie's poetry and said, "I think that's so important, especially now, when everybody is feeling a sense of fear and having been terrorized, to look at what you have in your life and have a sense of gratitude and see the miracles in your life. And you, even though you're hooked up to all this equipment, and we had to plug you in during the commercial break to give you more oxygen, you still see miracles everyday in your life."In May 2011, Jeni Stepanek sat with Oprah Winfrey to honor her son as one of Oprah's top three most memorable guests. Oprah held up Jeni's inspiring book on Mattie's life and legacy, Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs, and called it a "wonderful story."