Mattie Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

"When I grow up, I want to be a peacemaker"

Mattie dressed as a biker on his tricked-out wheelchair for Halloween.
My name is Mattie Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek (my real name is Matthew, but I like Mattie). I am almost 11 years old, and I home school doing a high school curriculum. I began writing when I was about 3 years old, and now have a collection that contains thousands of poems, dozens of essays and short stories, and many illustrations. I have even bound some of my books at home, and a bound anthology of my writing was presented to the Library of Congress during the Fall of 2000. I have also won many awards for my writing, including the Melinda A. Lawrence International Book Award in 1999 for 'most inspirational work.'


I have a rare form of muscular dystrophy called mitochondrial myopathy, and I also have something called dysautonomia. That means that my 'automatic' systems, like breathing, heart rate, body temperature, oxygenation, digestion, and things like that don't always work well on their own.


Mattie showing his book at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
So, I use extra oxygen all the time, and when I am tired or sleeping I use a ventilator that breathes for me and some other machines, too. I also use a power wheelchair much of the time to save energy and move my medical equipment around. My two brothers and one sister died during childhood from the same thing I have, and my mother uses a power wheelchair all the time because she has the adult form of this disability.

I love to read, write, and do public speaking at conferences and seminars. This year I was chosen to be the Maryland State Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I get to participate in many fundraising events that will help find a cure for neuromuscular diseases, and support children and families in celebrating life during the time before a cure is found. I also enjoy playing with Legos, drawing, Pokemon, and studying about famous people and the Martial Arts (I have earned a 1st Degree Black Belt in a Korean art similar to Tae Kwon Do).


Mattie at the MDA camp
When I grow up, I want to be a peacemaker. My biggest role model for this is Jimmy Carter, who has been a wonderful peanut farmer, politician, and peacemaker... I call him the 'perfect hero.' I would like to work as a mediator, and share my poetry, essays, and philosophy with others so that they may be inspired to work with other people, too. I want people to know that in every life, there are storms. But we must remember to play after every storm and to celebrate the gift of life as we have it, or else life becomes a task, rather than a gift. We must always listen to the song in our heart, and share that song with others.


Please become familiar with The Diane Rehm Show 

Click Here for link to The Diane Rehm Show Archives

or listen to Diane's show with Mattie as linked below 


88.5 FM

Show/Section Name

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
11:00 - Mattie Stepanek: Celebrate Through Heartsongs (Hyperion)

Listen in RealAudio
Muscular dystrophy patient and best-selling poet Mattie Stepanek, 12, and his mother, Jeni, talk to Diane about the challenges their family has faced, and about Mattie's new book of poems.


  -- Simply type  " Celebrate Through Heartsongs in the search engine on BOOKSAMILLION.COM



On Growing Up (Part 5)

We are growing up
We are many colors of skin
We are many languages
We are many ages and sizes.
We are many countries...
But we are one with the earth.
We each have one heart.
We each have one life
We are growing up, together,
So we must live as one family.

© Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

The Language of God

Do you know what
Language God speaks?
God speaks Every-Language.
That's because God made
Everyone and Gave
Everyone different Languages.
And God understands all of them.
And do you know what is God's
Favorite Language?
God's favorite language is
Not grown-ups's language,
But the Language of Children.
That's because children
Are special to God.
Children know how to share,
And they never lose
Their Heart-Songs.

© Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

On Growing Up (Part 3)

I'm not so sure about growing up.
I know that I want to grow up.
But I always thought I wanted to
Be a doctor, a priest, a Grandmaster
In Hapkido, and a daddy.
Well I'm not so sure I will be a doctor.
I wanted to be a doctor because
I love Dr. Terry Flotte, and because
I want to fix mommy and me, and
I wanted to bring back Jamie
And Katie and Stevie back
Because even though
Heaven is a Wonderful place,
Heaven is a place a Forever place.
So I've decided that I want to be
A writer instead of a doctor.

I like words.
I like reading.
I like writing.
I like making up stories.
I like making up poems. Mommy is a writer.
I like being like mommy, too.
I can still do important things
Even if I'm not a doctor.
I can write about peace and love
Like Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus.
I can write about adventures
Like Robert Loius Stevenson and
Like Mary Pope Osborne and
Like the one who did Star Wars.
I can write and tell about fantasy
And about funny things and lots and
Lots of things that teach people
All kinds of stuff.
That's why I've decided that
I should be a writer when I grow up.
Oh, and I will still be a priest,
And a Hapkido Grandmaster,
And a daddy, too.

© Hyperion Books. All Rights Reserved.

My stuffed animals and babies
Don't like the big yellow monster.
They don't like the big yellow monster
That swallows Mattie up every morning,
And then takes him away for so many hours
And then brings him back home
And then spits him out "p-tooey,"
Right where it ate him in the first place.
Even when Mattie tells them,
"It's only a school bus, little guys,
I can handle it, don't worry!"
They still don't like it at all.
But now, there are only
Seventeen days left for that
Big yellow monster to swallow me
And chew me and spit me out "p-tooey..."
Because summer vacation is
Just around the corner
Where the school bus never comes.

© Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

On Being a Champion

A Champion is a winner,
A hero...
Someone who never gives up
Even when the going gets rough.
A champion is a member of
A winning team...
Someone who overcomes challenges
Even when it requires creative solutions.
A champion is an optimist,
A hopeful spirit...
Someone who plays the game,
Even when the game is called life.
There can be a champion in each of us,
If we live as a winner,
If we live as a member of the team,
If we live with a hopeful spirit,
For Life.

© Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.


New title from VSP Books
To read about or for information on ordering Mattie Stepanek’s new book of poems please click here or call us at 1-800-441-1949.


A spiritual and uplifting new collection of poems, from the New York Times bestselling poet and peacemaker Mattie J.T. Stepanek. Mattie J.T. Stepanek is an award-winning poet whose struggle with a rare form of muscular dystrophy has touched the lives of people nationwide. Celebrate Through Heartsongs, his fourth inspiring collection of poetry, features works written between the ages of three and eleven, and continues to spread Mattie's message of universal hope, peace, courage, and love. Fully illustrated by the poet, the collection will appeal to people of all ages, religions, and beliefs.

ISBN: 0-7868-6945-3/hardcover/80pp

For Mattie's earlier poems see:
Journey Through Heartsongs
Hope Through Heartsongs


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