Peace Maker Spotlight
Kaylee Dobbins first met Mattie Stepanek when she was only 6 days old! Mattie had known Kaylee’s dad, Chris Dobbins, his entire life (literally), and the two of them were like brothers. Mattie met Kaylee’s mom, Cynthia, in 2000 during a family beach vacation. And in 2002, Mattie served as the Best Man at Chris and Cynthia’s wedding.
When little Kaylee was born in 2003, Mattie had been in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for several months, and was desperate to meet and hold the newest family member. So, at less than a week of age, Chris and Cynthia packed newborn Kaylee up, grabbed a camera, and brought her into the ICU – where she was quickly at home in the loving arms of her “Uncle Mattie.”
For the next year, Mattie doted on Kaylee. When he was not in the hospital, he cooed over her day and night (she lived in the condo unit right next door to Mattie and his mom). And during the times when he was back in the hospital, Chris and Cynthia would bring Kaylee in for visits, so Mattie could continue adoring his first little kin-niece.
After Mattie died in 2004, Chris and Cynthia made sure that Kaylee had photos of herself with Uncle Mattie, to help her remember his love. More importantly, as Kaylee grew older, they talked with her about her Uncle Mattie’s concept of Heartsongs and purpose, and about his message of hope and peace. They helped Kaylee understand that she could be a peacemaker – just like Uncle Mattie – if she chooses to make peace something that matters for herself, for others, and for the world.
Since the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation was first created, Kaylee has been a part of many of the activities organized by the Board members. In 2005, she sat in the lap of Mattie’s mom during the groundbreaking ceremony for Mattie’s Park, and helped Jeni turn the dirt with the golden shovel. During 2006, 2007, and 2008, she cheered her dad on as he participated in the Heartsongs Swim events to raise funds for Mattie’s Foundation. (He joined the Board later in 2010 and began serving as Vice President). In 2009, Kaylee began helping as a volunteer at Foundation events, and she also became one of Jeni’s key “logistic volunteers” – helping to sort and package Peace Shop materials to fulfill orders that support the Foundation’s mission. And in 2011, Kaylee was helping spread her Uncle Mattie’s message of peace during the Foundation’s first Peace Celebration.
Now, during this season of “thanks and giving,” the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Kaylee Dobbins as our Peace Maker Spotlight honoree for the 2012 November-December holidays.
Below are Kaylee’s responses to our interview questions.
My name is Kaylee Dobbins. I live with my mom and dad (Cynthia and Chris), and with my little sister (Leah) who just turned 4 years old. I am 9 years old and in the 4th grade. My favorite subjects in school are math, social studies, and science.
In my free time, I like playing with friends, painting and doing artwork, playing basketball and soccer, and going to Uncle Mattie’s Park. I also like playing with friends, playing instruments – I am taking trumpet lessons now – and helping people and children be happier by playing with people who are alone. My favorite place to go on vacation is to the beach. Every summer, the whole family goes to the beach in North Carolina for a week. And our “whole family” is big because it includes my parents and sister, and two of my grandmothers, and my great-grandparents, and my aunts and uncle and my little cousin, Collin.
Peace is a grateful feeling that comes from your heart. Uncle Mattie has helped me understand about peace. I can make peace by caring for others, and by changing the world into peace.
I can make peace in all places and with all people. In my home, I share toys with my little sister, I play games with my family and friends, and I help to clean. In my school, I help classmates with work when the teacher asks, and I help friends by taking them to the nurse when they are hurt. In my world, I donate money and clothes to the people who need it, in my country or in other countries.
Sometimes peace is about doing something small like helping someone get something out of their reach, or helping people fix things. And sometimes peace can be a project, and something that you work on for a long time. A peace project that I thought of when I was younger is “Pies for Orphans” – I will make pies, and sell them, and use the money to help the orphans and to find them parents and a big home.
About Uncle Mattie and his Foundation
My Uncle Mattie is a very special person. When he was alive, he was bringing peace to the world. And then even after he died, he is still bringing peace to the world. Sometimes I read some of the books he wrote, and then I learn more about peace. Sometimes our whole family has a picnic in Uncle Mattie’s Park and Peace Garden. Uncle Mattie’s statue is holding a book that says, “Remember to play after every storm!” and that is what we do.
I also learn about what Uncle Mattie told us about peace from Mom-mom. She is Mattie’s mom. She tells me about him and peace, and she lets me help her do things for peace. I really like helping my Mom-mom with Uncle Mattie’s Foundation. Sometimes I reach things for her because her arms and legs don’t have strong muscles because she has a disability. I sort postcards into sets, and stack the books onto shelves, and help put things into boxes or envelopes so they can be mailed to people. Then when people get the postcards and books and posters, they can learn more about Uncle Mattie and how we can make peace with each other.
I was the very first child to join “Mattie’s Peace Club Kids” when it began this year. Now, every month, I make pictures about peace to encourage people. I want to encourage them to know about peace. And I want to encourage other kids join and draw pictures and celebrate peace.
About the Future
Uncle Mattie loved the world. Uncle Mattie loved his family, too, and I am in his family. He loves me, and I love him, and that makes me feel like a very special person. I wish I remembered him, but I was very little when he held me and played with me. I have pictures and videos of him taking care of me, so I can remember his love that way, and every day.
When I grow up, I want to be everything – a zookeeper, a surfer, an artist, someone who works at an aquarium, and so many other things. And in any of those jobs, I will be a peace maker. All I have to do is be grateful in my heart, and be caring in my words and actions.
I feel very excited about being recognized as a Peace Maker by Uncle Mattie’s Foundation. Uncle Mattie was a great uncle to me when I was a baby. He taught me and other children and people about peace. His Foundation is special because it teaches and encourages others to know about peace, and to be peace. I am happy that I get to help spread peace for Uncle Mattie, for my family, and for my world.
Thank you, Kaylee,
for being a
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