Mattie’s Writing, Advocacy, & Honors

Posted on: April 23rd, 2012 by jeni No Comments



Home-made Heartsongs books, Spring 1999

Mattie began creating poetry, short stories, and essays when he was 3 years old. Initially, his expressions explored his grief following the death of his brother, Jamie. As Mattie grew older, his writings reflected his evolving understanding and views of our world, and our need for hope and peace.


During kindergarten, his first book (a hand-bound collection of Heartsongs poetry) earned first prize in a county-wide book festival. Subsequent books each year also earned top prize in this contest.  In 1999, he was awarded the Melinda A. Lawrence Inspirational Book Award by Children’s Hospice International for his unpublished materials, and in 2000, a special collection of his work was accepted into the Library of Congress.


Mattie created seven NY Times Bestselling books. Five of his Heartsongs poetry books were published before his death, each of them reaching the NY Times Bestseller list. His second book,  Journey Through Heartsongs was the #1 NY Times Bestselling Book for many weeks, and in the Top Ten list for the year.


Two more books were published posthumously — his final collection of poetry, and a collection of peace essays and e-mail correspondence with his friend and mentor, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Both books became NY Times Bestsellers, and the collection of peace essays was awarded the IPPY Gold Medal for Peacemaker Book of the Year.


Mattie’s books include forewords or introductions contributed by Maya Angelou, Jann Carl, Jimmy Carter, Christopher Cross, Chris Cuomo, Larry King, Jerry Lewis, Bernie Siegel, Oprah Winfrey, and Gary Zukav.




Book signing and speech, Fall 2003


From the age of 6, Mattie gave inspirational speeches to a variety of audiences, ranging from school children to business leaders and politicians, and from medical professionals to educators and parenting or spiritual groups. He spoke about spirituality, disability, education, healthcare, and hospice, anchoring his presentations in his Heartsongs and a message of hope and peace.


Mattie was a frequent guest on shows like Oprah, Larry King Live, and Good Morning America; he worked with Children’s Hospice International lobbying for improvements in guidelines for children’s health and hospice care; he supported Nile Rodgers in launching the We Are Family Foundation; and, he served as a three-term National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


His role as an advocate for hope and peace and for people with disabilities was widely recognized through awards, honors, and namesake programs — including the National Kindness Child of the Year Award, the Call for Peace Native American Society Peacemaker Award, the WAFF Peacemaker Award, the Verizon Courage Award, the Adlerian Society Social Interest Award, the Pediatric Nursing Humanitarian Award, the Children’s Hope Medal of Honor, the DHHS Advocacy Award, Neuharth Free Spirit of the Year Award, a MediMedia Freddie Public Service Award, People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us” recognition, and induction into the Kids Hall of Fame.



Honors & Awards (Highlights)


Below are highlights of Mattie’s

Honors & Awards during his life.


  • #1 NY Times Bestselling AuthorJourney Through Heartsongs (Hyperion, 2002)
    Top Ten NY Times Bestselling Author for the Year of 2002
  • NY Times Bestselling Author – all seven of his books —  (2001-2006)
    six volumes of Heartsongs poetry and
    also his collection of Just Peace essays and letters
  • Music Billboard Top 15 Hits – Music Through Heartsongs CD with Billy Gilman (2003)
  • Hapkido Student of the Month (numerous times 1995-1998)
  • First Place, Write-A-Book – countywide K-12 Poetry Division (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999)
  • Parade Magazine Champions Honoree (1996)
  • Hapkido Student of the Year (1996)
  • MDA Goodwill Ambassador –
    (Local 1996-2000, State 2001-2004, National 2002-2004)
  • Keynote Speaker — numerous local and national conferences,
    universities, Capitol Hill meetings, schools, etc… (1997-2004)
  • My Hero — Poet Hero (first year recognized, 1997)
  • Several Martial Art championships – 18 and under Black Belt division (1997-1999)
  • “Head Elf” Fantasy Flight – CHI/United Airlines (1997-2004)
  • First Degree Black Belt — Hapkido, Tae Kwon Do, Hapmudo (1998)
  • Honorary Lifetime Harley Owners Group Member — (began 1998)
    chapters include Fort Washington, Annapolis, and Baltimore, MD
  • Individual Sportsmanship Award – International Association of Fire Fighters (1998)
  • Melinda A. Lawrence International Inspirational Book Award (1999)
  • Wizard of Oz “Heart, Brains, Courage” Award – Border’s Books (1999)
  • Hapkido Competitor of the Year (1999)
  • AMF Bowling Awards — placed in several categories/ MDA Bowling Team (1999-2002)
  • On Being a Champion Award – namesake / Children’s Hospice International (began 2000)
  • Library of Congress -- Heartsongs Compilation Book
    entered into the Children’s Literature Anthology section (2000)
  • MDA Silver Circle of Friends Advocacy Award (2000)
  • Opening Pitch – Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Bowie Baysox (2001-2003)
  • CHI Goodwill Ambassador – (2001-2004)
  • National Kindness Child of the Year Award — Act of Kindness Association (2001)
  • Holy Rosary Parish Representative, Cardinal McCarrick’s Installation –
    Washington, DC Archdiocese (2001)
  • Soul Story — Guest Author for Gary Zukav (2001)
  • First Lady (Laura Bush) Holiday Escort — Children’s National Medical Center (2001)
  • Children’s Hope Medal of Honor (2002)
  • Emmy Award for Primetime Thursday –  (2002)
    “The Magic of Mattie” (2001) by Chris Cuomo
  • Social Interest Award — North American Adlerian Society (2002)
  • Youth Festival Poet Laureate – Oregon World of Poetry PICC-Fest (2002)
  • On Being a Champion Award – Children’s Hospice International (2002)
  • Kennedy Center, Distinguished Speaker Series Introduction Honor
    Washington Society of Executives Center for Association Leadership (2002)
  • Peacemaker Award – We Are Family Foundation (2002)
  • Young Adult Honoree, Caring Award Hall of Fame — Caring Institute (2002)
  • Pediatric Nursing Humanitarian Award (2002)
  • Kids Hall of Fame, Inductee (2002)
  • Verizon Business Solutions Group Courage Award (2002)
  • Freddie Public Service Award — MediMedia International Health/Medical (2002)
  • Neuharth Free Spirit Honoree (2002)
  • Noah’s Children (Hospice) Appreciation Recognition (2002)
  • People Magazine “Heroes Among Us” Award (2002)
  • Chuck Yeager Honorary Young Eagle Recognition (2002)
  • Indy Racing League Parade – Honorary Float participant (2002)
  • Parade Magazine Cover Photo/Story for MDA (2002)
  • Toys R Us Differently Abled Kids Guide — Cover Photo/Letter Honor (2002)
  • MDA Heartsongs Gala – Mattie’s “Black Tie Party” fundraiser (2003-2013)
  • Heartsongs Champion Award – (began 2003)
    namesake/ Muscular Dystrophy Association
  • Heartsongs Appreciation Award — (began 2003)
    namesake/ Children’s National Medical Center
  • Emmy Nomination for Larry King Live – April 2002 show (2003)
  • Points of Light Recognition — Children’s Hospice International (2003)
  • Howard “Rocky” Stone Award — (2003)
    Archdiocese of Washington, DC Catholic Church
  • Disability Awareness Advocacy Award — (2003)
    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2003)
  • MDA Most Effective Youth Ambassador Honor (2003)
  • Earth Society Foundation Earth Day Award (2003)
  • Neuharth Free Spirit of the Year Award (2003)
  • Swedenberg Inform of L.A. Angel Festival Award (2003)
  • Intergenerational Caregiving Conference C0-Chair (2003)
    Rosalynn Carter Institute Annual International Summit
  • Larry King Cardiac Foundation Gala Honorary Chair (2003, 2004)

Mattie’s contributions to books published by others include:


  • Boys Who Rocked the World: From King Tut to Tiger Woods  (Beyond Words, 2001)
  • So, You Wanna be a Writer? (Beyond Words, 2001)
  • I Love You, Mom (Editor, Kelly Ripka, Hyperion, 2003)
  • Open My Eyes, Open My Soul (Editor, Yolanda King, 2004)

Click here to read about
posthumous Honors & Awards
related to Mattie’s Legacy & Message Today 




Return to Mattie’s Life main page

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Learn more about Mattie’s Books and writings


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Read a 2002 MDA Quest Magazine article about Mattie





Return to About Mattie main page




November Spotlight

Peace Seeker

Our Peace Seeker Spotlights honor our Peace Club Youth members -- and the families, educators, and mentors who choose to support these Kids, Tweens, and Teens in learning and celebrating that “peace is possible.” Read more...

Peace Maker

Our Peace Maker Spotlights honor our Peace Club General & VIP members – adults who "choose peace" and offer a small membership fee that supports our activities and programs, including the free activities offered to our youth members. Read more...

Peace Bringer

Our Peace Bringer Spotlights honor our Peace Activity Certificate and Peace Certification Program participants – individuals, families, educators, schools, communities, and more who choose to move from “attitude to action” with peace. Read more...

Peace Sponsor

Our Peace Sponsor Spotlights honor our Champions, Advocates, and Program Messengers – individuals, organizations, and businesses whose financial or in-kind contributions support the mission and work of Mattie’s Foundation. Read more...

- Mattie J.T. Stepanek