Mattie’s Message Today
Highlights of Programs, Activities, & Honors
Across the years, numerous inspirational, educational, and recreational programs have been created that celebrate the message of hope and peace that Mattie offered through his writings, his speeches, and his everyday conversations and being. His poetry and essays continue to be reprinted or excerpted in other books, and many composers have used Mattie’s lyrics in new musical pieces. Mattie has also been recognized with numerous posthumous awards and honors from national and international organizations. Below are some highlights of these events.
To learn more about Mattie’s life and message, including highlights of Honors & Awards he received before he died please visit the About Mattie pages (including the Mattie’s Writing, Advocacy, & Honors page).
- Mattie, who worked with the IAFF most of his life, is buried with the funeral of a fallen firefighter, the only civilian in the IAFF’s history to receive such an honor.
- The MDA Mattie Fund is established, bringing in millions of dollars to fund research efforts in childhood neuromuscular diseases, like the one that affected Mattie and his siblings.
- U.S. Congressional Resolution #695 recognizes Mattie with honor, achievement, and contribution to our world, and a flag is flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of Mattie’s service and commitment to personal and world peace.
- Mattie is awarded MDA’s Lifetime Contribution Award and is recognized with the MDA Most Effective Youth Ambassador Resolution.
- Mattie is honored posthumously with the NuSkin Force for Good Lifetime Achievement Award.
- The entire 2004 National MDA Labor Day Telethon is dedicated to Mattie, their three-term MDA National Goodwill Ambassador.
- Mattie is recognized with Washington Peace Center’s “Peacemaker Extraordinaire Award.”
- Mattie is recognized with the Native American Society, Call for Peace Humanitarian Award.
- Mattie’s Movie and Poetry Slam Day is initiated by Lollipop Theatre, WAFF, and Robert Galinsky.
- Mattie J.T. Stepanek is posthumously awarded the Individual Sportsmanship Award by the International Association of Fire Fighters.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is established as a not-for-profit organization with the mission of making Mattie’s message of hope and peace available and accessible across time and space.
- Harley Davidson Owners Group initiates an annual “Tribute to Mattie” Fundraiser
- Mattie J.T. Stepanek is posthumously awarded an Outstanding Historical Achievements recognition by the Peerless Rockville Celebrity Challenge.
- The annual Mattie’s MDA Heartsongs Gala, an event conceived by Mattie in 2003, continues. By 2013, the DC area event raises millions of dollars that fund local MDA Summer Camps as well as clinics and research. In 2013, the event is transitioned to the MDA Muscle Team Event, but continues to honor Mattie’s legacy with the annual Mattie J.T. Stepanek Heartsongs Champion Award.
- The Mattie Stepanek Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are established by the Muscular Dystrophy Association with monies raised by the MDA Mattie Fund, and awarded to researchers studying mitochondrial disease.
- The 2005 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Maya Angelou.
- The two-room Peace is Possible Exhibit dedicated to Mattie’s message of hope and peace is opened at the Children’s Peace Pavilion in Independence, MO, where Mattie delivered a keynote speech to 5,500 students in 2002.
- The Ground Breaking Ceremony for the future Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park & Peace Garden is attended by hundreds of politicians, fire fighters, Harley Davidson bikers, school children, fans, and neighbors.
- In honor of Mattie’s friendship with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and of his support of her Intergenerational Caregiving program, the Rosalynn Carter Institute and Johnson & Johnson initiate four annual Mattie J.T. Stepanek Scholarships to individuals who are furthering their education or work in a caregiving field.
- Mattie’s final collection of poetry s released in an eight chapter book titled, Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs, which becomes a NY Times Bestseller.
- Mattie is recognized with the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies Peacemaker Award. The award is renamed the “Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award.”
- Mattie is recognized with the Child Welfare League of America’s Natalie Heineman Humanitarian Award.
- Mattie is recognized with the Peacemaker Extraordinaire Award by the Washington Peace Center.
- MDA creates a 30 minute documentary about Mattie, “Play After Every Storm: Remembering Mattie Stepanek” which first airs during the 2005 National MDA Labor Day Telethon.
- Mattie’s friend, Madison Cross, records the song, He Was Just Like Me, written by her father, Grammy and Oscar award-winning musician Christopher Cross. Proceeds from the CD support the MDA Mattie Fund. (Click here to view lyrics) – (Click here to watch the video).
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awards Mattie their Highest Honor Humanitarian Award.
- The 2001 Good Morning America segment in which Mattie meets Jimmy Carter in person for the first time is named the Most Memorable Moment in the show’s 30 year history.
- Mattie first appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show during October 2001 is selected for Oprah’s 20th Anniversary DVD collection and also highlighted in The O Magazine.
- Mattie’s collection of peace essays and e-mail correspondence with Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and others is published in a book titled, Just Peace: A Message of Hope. The book becomes a NY Times Bestseller.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek We Are Family School is built in Mali, Africa.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Exhibit (a two year display) is opened at the Montgomery County Public Library, Rockville, MD Branch.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Memorial Library is dedicated at Mattie’s former parish, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Upper Marlboro, MD.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peace Tree is dedicated at Mattie’s former parish, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Upper Marlboro, MD.
- The 2006 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Quincy Jones.
- Mattie is inducted posthumously into the Caring Hall of Fame by the Caring Institute.
- Mattie is recognized with Shane’s Inspiration’s “Inspiring Person of the Year” Award.
- On September 11, 2006 the citizens of Lapeer, MI, celebrated their first annual World Trade Day. Mattie described his vision for this event in his Just Peace book, writing that such an event and the suggested activities could commemorate the tragic events of 9/11, giving meaning to loss while simultaneously encouraging people of all nationalities and faiths to move ‘forthward’ with hope and peace. This is an annual event in Lapeer until 2012, which inspires other cities across the country to embrace Mattie’s vision for this event as well.
- The public library in Rockville, Maryland invites Mattie’s Foundation to loan items for a Mattie J.T. Stepanek Exhibit that will be available for visitors for two years.
- Mattie J.T. Stepanek is posthumously awarded the Inspiring Person of the Year Award by Shane’s Inspiration.
- “Reflections of a Peacemaker” – a selection of Mattie’s poems set to music by Lita Grier is performed by the Chicago Children’s Choir.
- Mattie J.T. Stepanek is posthumously awarded a Young Adult Caring Award and entered into the Caring Hall of Fame by the Caring Institute.
- “Psalm of Tad” – a choral production of Mattie’s poem by that title is released by Conspaire.
- Mattie’s “Just Peace” book is awarded the IPPY Gold Medal for Peacemaker Book of the Year.
- The mayor of Carlstadt, NJ, proclaims May 22 each year to be Mattie Stepanek Day, with flags to be flown at half-mast in honor of Mattie’s quest for peace. On the same day, the Peace Library in Honor of Mattie Stepanek is dedicated by the Carlstadt school board, and Mattie’s books become part of the curriculum.
- The 2007 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Paul Simon.
- The first “Mattie’s Heartsong Swim” event is held in King Farm, Maryland.
- The City of Rockville, Maryland declares a Mattie J.T. Stepanek Week.
- Mattie’s appearances on Larry King Live are selected for inclusion in his 20th anniversary DVD collection.
- The Heartsongs Palliative Care Project is initiated in honor of Mattie J.T. Stepanek as an international palliative care and education program in Greece, the UK, the US, and other countries.
- Mattie’s Foundation begins collaborating with the City of Rockville as plans are defined for a Peace Garden central to the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park.
- The We Are Family Foundation launches their Three Dot Dash initiative, inspired by Mattie.The year round initiative mentors Global Teen Leaders who attend the Just Peace Summit – an annual weeklong training event developed from the inspiration and information Mattie shares in his final book, Just Peace. By 2012, more than 15 million people worldwide have been directly and positively impacted by the peace projects created by the 117 Global Teen Leaders from nearly 40 countries on 6 continents who have participated in the Just Peace Summit so far.
- The 2008 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Deepak Chopra.
- A WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek School is built in Mali, Africa, sponsored through the We Are Family Foundation.
- The first of many “Peace Trees” around the world in honor of Mattie J.T. Stepanek is dedicated in England by Global Teen Leader, David Saddington.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Exhibit (a two year display) is transferred from Rockville, MD Public Library to Carlstadt Public School, Carlstadt, NJ.
- The IPPY Moon Beam Children’s Book Award Category is initiated in honor of Mattie and his writings.
- The 2008 Mattie’s Heartsong Swim fundraiser event is organized collaboratively by Mattie’s Foundation and the King Farm Screaming Geese Swim Team.
- The City of Rockville and Montgomery Country, Maryland both declare a Mattie Stepanek Week.
- Mattie is selected by USA Today as one of the Top 25 People: “Lives of Indelible Impact” (#17).
- On October 18, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park & Peace Garden Dedication Ceremony is attended by thousands, including Oprah Winfrey, Nile Rodgers, Billy Gilman, Teen Band Creation, politicians, MDA staff and families, school children, media, fans, and friends. The life-size bronze of Mattie and his service dog, Micah are unveiled. “Look Up, Way Down” — a song based on Mattie’s final peace speech composed by musician Pepper Choplin is performed by a combined county choir.
- The Mattie and Melinda Bill is introduced to Congress. Also known as the CHI-PACC Model — a living memorial to Mattie J.T. Stepanek, this effort ensures that parents and families do not have to choose between hope for a cure and hospice care, as Mattie encouraged during lobbying on behalf of CHI. CHI also continues to exhibit Mattie’s “Head Elf Sleigh” during the CHI/United Airlines Fantasy Flight, celebrating Mattie’s many years serving as a volunteer for the annual holiday event.
- The 2009 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Desmond and Leah Tutu.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park & Peace Garden in Rockville, MD are recognized with green space and architectural beauty awards by the State of Maryland.
- Inspired by Mattie’s Park and a “green space for peace,” a multi-acre Peace Park in Honor of Mattie Stepanek is created and dedicated by the Mayor, School Board, Citizens, and Children of Carlstadt, New Jersey, complete with a bust of Mattie and a tree honoring Mattie and his siblings — Katie, Stevie, and Jamie.
- The 2009 Mattie’s Heartsong Swim fundraiser event is organized collaboratively by Mattie’s Foundation and the King Farm Screaming Geese Swim Team.
- The City of Rockville and Montgomery Country, Maryland both declare a Mattie Stepanek Week.
- Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs, written by Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek, and with a foreword by Maya Angelou is released in hardback and audiobook form.
- “Tis the Season” – a choral production of Mattie’s poem by that title is created by Ron Keane and released by Pavane Publishing.
- The 2010 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Pastor James Wuye and Imam Mohammad Ashafa (aka Nigeria’s “The Imam and Pastor” peacemaker team). The Imam and Pastor also give Mattie’s mom the name “Mama Peace.”
- On June 6, 2010, the world premiere of Heartsongs takes place at Carnegie Hall in New York City, featuring Mattie’s message and poetry set to music by composer Joseph Martin, and performed by a 200 voice combined Children’s Choir (many of them from Houston, TX and one, the Mississippi Girl Choir, from Jackson, MS) and other members of the Distinguished Concerts Singers International under the direction of conductor Stephen Roddy. Mattie’s mom (Jeni), and friends Nile Rodgers and Billy Gilman are part of the premiere performance. The event is such an overwhelming success that a CD with the music is subsequently created.
- The first annual Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is presented to a graduating middle school student in Carlstadt, NJ.
- Mattie’s memoir, Messenger, by Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D., is released in paperback.
- A group of individuals in the Catholic church begin discussing and organizing a Committee to consider investigating Mattie’s Cause for Canonization.
- The For Our World Campaign is launched by Mattie’s Foundation, inviting individuals around the world to translate and share Mattie’s 9/11 peace passage. Within a year, more than 50 translations, from Albanian to Zulu, are available.
- Oprah Winfrey names Mattie as one of her top three all-time Most Memorable Guests in the 25 year history of the award-winning Oprah Winfrey Show. During last ever studio audience taping, Mattie’s mom and Oprah shares memories of Mattie, discusses his life story in the Messenger book written by Jeni, and calls Mattie “a messenger for our times” and a “modern day prophet in little boy clothes.” Both during that show and in her June, 2011, O The Magazine, Oprah shares that Mattie was the singular force who changed her mind about ending her program at 20 years. Mattie encouraged her to go “five more years: for a number of reasons, a decision she considered, made, and has “never regretted.”
- Mattie’s memoir, Messenger, written by his mom, becomes a NY Times Bestseller.
- Mattie’s Foundation hosts a Peace Celebration in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The event is attended by hundreds of national and international participants. During the event, the Foundation’s “Pathways to Peace Program“ is introduced.
- The “What Next? Project” is launched by Mattie’s Foundation.
- Omékongo Dibinga, Director of UPstander International and Mattie’s Foundation Board Director, creates and records “Moved by a Messenger” as a Foundation rap song.
- The Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Shop in Bethesda, MD unveils a mural depicting local heroes, which includes Mattie.
- Mattie’s Foundation launches “Mattie’s Peace Club” – a membership and support program with five levels for children, teens, adults, VIPs, and Messengers (sponsors). The teen level includes the option of a “Three Choices Peace Journey” from Peace Teen to Teen Ambassador.
- Mattie’s Foundation launches a Peace Certification Program for educators, business leaders, families, schools, youth groups, and more.
- TV Guide and OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) name Mattie one of the Top 25 Oprah Show Moments on the 25 year history of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
- Jeni Stepanek and Mattie’s Foundation are honored by the international MY HERO Project on September 11, 2012 for peace efforts.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild meets on September 21, the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and the International Day of Peace, to officially initiate the investigation of Mattie’s life and virtues for his possible Cause of Canonization by the Catholic Church.
- Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D. is named the recipient of the 2012 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award.
- More than 1,000 ornaments created by people of diverse ages, abilities, and nationalities who live in countries on six continent around the world are created and contributed for Mattie’s Peace Tree 2012 (on display at the Rockville Civic Center in Maryland during December 2012).
- Jeni Stepanek and Mattie’s Foundation are honored by the international MY HERO Project during the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service.
- During a rescheduled “Gala 2.0″ (due to Hurricane Sandy), the 2012 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is presented to Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D. during January 2013 by some of the 117 Global Teen Leaders she has worked with through the WAFF/3DD Just Peace Summit across the years. It is the tenth anniversary of the peacemaker award.
- Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) submits a request for a National Peace Day in Honor of Mattie Stepanek.
- Former US President Jimmy Carter offers support for the endeavor.
- A “Peace Activity Certificate” program is developed for Mattie’s Peace Club Tweens (older Peace Club Kids who want to move from attitude to action by creating or participating in a Peace Activity). The first two PCTw youth to be recognized are from the United States and from Indonesia.
- Mattie J.T. Stepanek is recognized posthumously with the inaugural Youth/Young Adult Leadership Award presented by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.
- Global neighbors in more than 30 countries representing every continent around the world participate in Mattie’s Peace Tree 2013 and the December Prayer Project -- outreach activities sponsored by Mattie’s Foundation.
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) submits a letter of support towards the Mattie Stepanek Peace Day endeavor initiated in 2013 by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and supported by Former US President Jimmy Carter.
- The 2014 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Emmanuel Jal of Sudan — former boy soldier, and now a musician and peace activist.
- The 2nd Annual Spirit of Mattie Awards are given to three students (elementary, middle school, and high school) who competed in the Southern Arizona Science Fair.
- Mattie is honored with an IFLAC Dove of Peace by the International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace.
- The Mattie & Melinda Bill — the Children’s Program of All-Inclusive Coordinated Care (ChiPACC) Act of 2014 — is re-introduced in the United States Congress by U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Jim Moran of Virginia. The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, known as a champion in the hospice care industry. From 1997 to 2004, Mattie lobbied with Children’s Hospice International and on Capitol Hill for changes to hospice guidelines and laws that impact children with life-threatening conditions and their families.
- Yuka Saionji Maatsuri of Japan donates a “May peace prevail on earth…” Peace Pole to Mattie’s Foundation for Mattie’s Park & Peace Garden. The pole will be unveiled during the summer Peace Gathering in honor of Mattie’s life and legacy.
- The national peace day campaign in supported by a growing number of politicians and national organizations, and thousands of global citizens who sign the online petition asking President Barack Obama to declare July 17 “Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peace Day” for the United States.
- A short documentary film project is initiated to express and celebrate Mattie’s life and legacy, and the peace day journey.
- A 10-year anniversary memorial Mass in Mattie’s honor is held at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC, con-celebrated by many archdiocesan priests and hundreds of participants. Updates on the process of Mattie’s possible Cause for Canonization were offered by members of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild during a reception sponsored by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability following the Mass.
- Mattie Stepanek Peace Day is proclaimed at a local level for July 17 by the Mayor and City of Rockville, MD in honor of Mattie’s life and legacy of peace.
- Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulksi (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) jointly introduce a House Resolution on July 17 (Mattie’s birthday) to recognize the day in the Senate as Mattie J.T. Stepanek World Peace Day.
- A Peace Gathering – “conversation and cake to celebrate Mattie’s life and legacy” in honor of Mattie’s 10 year anniversary and 24th birthday brings together children and adults from around the globe, who helped unveil the new Peace Pole donated by Japanese peace activist Yuka Saionji Matsuura.
- Global neighbors in more than 30 countries representing every continent around the world participate in the Mattie’s Peace Tree 2014 activity sponsored by Mattie’s Foundation.
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild gathers to consider next steps for the advancement of Mattie’s possible Cause of Canonization (sainthood) in the Catholic Church. The group consists of more than two dozen people, representing lay people, clergy, media and organizational celebrities, Mattie’s peers and friends, youth and family members learning about Mattie’s message today, community leaders, and more.
- The 2015 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Caryl Stern, President & CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF.
- The My Hero Project recognizes Mattie as an influential poet and peace activist during National Poetry Month 2015.
- On June 22, the Mayor and City Council declared July 17 (Mattie’s birthday) to be “Peace Day” for the citizens of City of Rockville, Maryland. Peace Day was commemorated during the July 4 Peace Gathering in Mattie’s Park.
- The 2015 Peace Gathering in Mattie’s Park & Peace Garden on July 4 was a great success, with hundreds of “#Change4Peace” participants and Heartsongs talent presentations by children and adults from across the county and remarks made by the Mayor and Council of Rockville, MD and local politicians. The event was followed by the City’s fireworks party and celebration.
- 2015 WAFF Global Teen Leader Justin Bachman initiates a fundraising campaign to place mosaic gifts bricks representing every GTL across the years in Mattie’s Peace Garden.
- The 2016 WAFF Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award is accepted by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Musician, Bono, accepts the WAFF Humanitarian Award.
- Mattie’s July 17 birthday is declared “Mattie’s Peace Day” by the City of Rockville, to be celebrated during a collaborative July 4 event in Mattie’s Park — the Foundation’s annual Peace Gathering followed by the City’s annual fireworks celebration.
- Mattie’s Foundation hosts their first “Pathways to Peace Train-the-Trainer Workshop“ — a two-day event held in Baltimore, Maryland attended by international participants.
- Ingleside at King Farm, a retirement community that became Peace Certified by Mattie’s Foundation during 2014, hosts their 1st Annual Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peace Lecture.
- Jeni Stepanek, PhD, is honored with the 2016 My Hero “Humanitarian Award” during the 12th Annual International Film Festival — for her “work as a mother, an author, and a peace activist.” Mattie was honored as Poet Hero by the organization in 1997, when he was 6 years old.
More about Mattie’s Legacy