New Mattie Book

Mattie Stepanek’s mother offers an inside look at the poet and former MDA National Goodwill Ambassador

by Quest Staff on October 30, 2009 - 9:00pm

 MDA National Vice President Jeni Stepanek will be a guest on the November 2 broadcast of ABC's "Good Morning America" to promote the release of Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J. T. Stepanek and Heartsongs, an inside look at the life of her famous son, who served as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador from 2002-2004.

Messenger Book Cover
Friends called Jeni and Mattie “the Dynamic Duo.” Both in wheelchairs, they enjoyed a free, funny and unusually adult exchange of ideas

Messenger will be available from Dutton publishers on November 3, and Stepanek will sign books at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Borders bookstore in the White Flint Mall, North Bethesda, Md.

In his short life, Mattie touched millions of lives with his messages of peace and hope. Six collections of his “Heartsongs” poetry and a collection of peace essays all became New York Times best-sellers. Mattie spoke with a wisdom and depth of sincerity that won him the friendship of prominent public figures such as former president Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey and renowned poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who wrote the foreword to Messenger.

The 324-page book includes anecdotes, poems and Jeni’s memories that have not appeared in print before. It recounts the story of Mattie’s remarkable life, from his youngest days coping with the loss of his brother to dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, through his days as a bestselling poet, peacemaker and “philosopher who played.”  The book also reveals Mattie’s struggle with the knowledge he would die young, and the days leading up to his death in 2004 at age “almost 14.”

Jeni Stepanek has the adult-onset form of dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, which also caused the deaths of her three other children when they were very young.

Shortly after Mattie’s death, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing his “braveness, generosity of spirit, and efforts to raise awareness of muscular dystrophy.” Others who knew and loved him immortalized his memory by creating a 26-acre regional recreation park and peace garden in his name.

In his honor, MDA created the MDA Mattie Fund to raise funds for medical research into childhood neuromuscular diseases.

Visit for more information about Mattie, his writings and other accomplishments.

Messenger can be pre-ordered from booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders or Independent.

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