Mattie Stepanek was a remarkable child who wrote inspirational poetry, raised funds for muscular dystrophy, and was an advocate and fundraiser for children with disabilities and for world peace.
Becoming an internationally known peace advocate at a young age is impressive. Having seven books on the bestseller list is even more remarkable. Doing all of that before the age of fourteen is nothing short of amazing!
Mattie Stepanek did all of that and more – and who knows how much more he could have done if he had lived past his teenage years. Mattie was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a disease that also killed his sister and two brothers in early childhood. In Mattie’s case, he was a month short of his fourteenth birthday when he died.
In his few years of life, Mattie made a bigger impact than most people do in an extended lifetime. Although he knew his time on Earth was going to be limited, Mattie was determined to keep a positive and hopeful attitude.
He began writing inspirational poetry when he was three years old to help him cope with his brothers’ deaths. The poems were so beautiful that his mother sent them to a publisher. That book, and six more collections of poems and essays by Mattie, became bestsellers and brought comfort to millions of readers.
All of Mattie’s writing was based on his belief that each of us has a “heart song”. A special gift that we can give to others, and that this gift is the reason we were born.
Mattie used the fame he earned from the success of his poetry to help raise funds for fighting muscular dystrophy. He also became an advocate for world peace and for aid for children with disabilities. He made a wide circle of friends and supporters, including Oprah Winfrey and country singer Billy Gilman.
Although he had such a short life, Mattie’s beliefs and work live on after him. The many foundations and programs dedicated to his memory have helped literally millions of people around the world. They did this through scholarships and programs for peace. His poetry has been set to music and performed at major concert halls. There are peace gardens, exhibits, and statues commemorating his life and his philosophy that all the world needs is “just peace.”
At Mattie’s funeral, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said that he had met kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, but that the most remarkable person he had ever met in his life was Mattie Stepanek.