Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation
2010 World Community Letter
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“Mattie had an infectious idealism that was pure and beautiful.
He succeeded against all odds and rose to distinction through
his genuine ideas and the example he set for all of us.
I joined the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation to share his message
and inspire people to do more to help others,
and to be active in building a great community.”
(Andy Gordon, MJTS Foundation President 2010-2011)
Dear Citizen of Our World:
When the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation turned 5 years old in 2010, the Board of Directors began gearing up for the next stage of positive, powerful, and peaceful change in our world. The Foundation is a volunteer-run not-for-profit organization committed to spreading the inspirational message of hope and peace offered by late poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek. We develop educational and recreational programs and outreach activities for children and adults that encourage peacemaking as a choice we can each make.
Mattie, a resident of Rockville, Maryland before his death due to neuromuscular disease in 2004, was a well-respected poet and advocate for peace and disability-related organizations. His six volumes of Heartsongs poetry and his Just Peace collection of essays and correspondence with Former President Jimmy Carter all made the NY Times bestseller list, and inspired millions around the world to believe that “hope is real, peace is possible, and life is worthy.” During his brief ‘almost 14 years’ on earth, Mattie lived each moment to the fullest, and encouraged others to do the same.
In 2005, a small group of residents in the Rockville King Farm community (where Mattie and his mom, Jeni, lived) gathered together and embraced a mission to “ensure that Mattie’s message of Heartsongs, hope, and peace is available and accessible to the world community.”
One of those founding members, Bob Balkam, said:
“After 38 months in Europe during World War II,
with awareness of Conscientious Objectors,
the beliefs of the Quakers, and unrealized hope in the United Nations,
Mattie’s simple message of ‘Peace is possible’ captured me.”
And with Mattie’s vision of the world as “a mosaic of gifts – to nurture, to offer, to accept,”the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation was established as a 501 3(c) not-for-profit organization.
Mattie’s personal philosophy for life was “Remember to play after every storm!” He believed that peace grows from ‘being okay with who we are as people,’ which is possible when we have our basic needs met. Once we have that inner sense of peace, we are better able to be okay with our neighbors – those who are similar to us and those who are very different from us – and to begin to tend to and balance the basic needs of all people in the world. This is the root of Mattie’s vision of world peace. Core to this way of thinking was his concept that “we must get to know our neighbors – around the block, and around the world.”
In this spirit, from 2005 through 2008 one of the primary activities of the Foundation was raising funds for the Peace Garden area of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park in King Farm, Rockville, Maryland which was dedicated in 2008. Foundation efforts supported the addition of a life-size bronze statue of Mattie and his service dog Micah, an informational sound post where visitors can listen to excerpts of Mattie’s speeches and poetry, and quotes from Mattie’s writings that are engraved on bricks and benches and plaques throughout the park. Visitors can enjoy Mattie’s philosophy of playing after storms and getting to know their neighbors, while also having opportunities to learn more about Mattie’s message of hope and peace.
Now, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is ready to move to a new stage of fulfilling the mission established back in 2005. Current projects include our For Our World Campaign, our Pathways to Peace Program and collaborative partnerships with other peace-related organizations. The Pathways to Peace Program will offer outreach activities for people of all ages, such as peace posters for schools, teacher tips for beginning conversations about peace, pamphlets for teens and adults about considering Mattie’s message, and a Walk for Peace through Mattie’s Park.
To bring the mission and vision of Mattie’s Foundation to action, the support of both our local and world community is needed. According to Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek:
“This is not a memorial for a child who died.
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a movement
to seek, make, and bring peace for all people who live.”
We welcome ideas and offers of support for our Program, Development, Outreach, and Community Involvement Committees. And, we are always seeking volunteers to help with specific events and activities – whether for fundraising or a celebration of peace. We are especially grateful to individuals and organizations that choose to support our work through financial or other in-kind donations. Mattie encouraged us to “seek, make, and bring peace to our world through the choices we make in our attitudes and our habits that ultimately shape our reality.” Please consider touching the world with a message of hope and peace by supporting the efforts and activities of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation.
“Mattie’s message of hope and peace inspires us all
to be better citizens of the world –
to think about how we can conduct ourselves every day in ways
that positively affect our relationships with people.
(Tom Curtis, MJTS Foundation Treasurer 2005-2011)
With hope and peace,
2010 Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation Board of Directors
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation
402 King Farm Boulevard, #125
Rockville, MD 20850