Monday, August 13, 2007

Boston Public Library Celebrates Young Poet Mattie Stepanek

The Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Boston Public Library are proud to host “Celebrate Through Heartsongs,” an exhibit celebrating the works of best-selling poet and peacemaker Mattie J.T. Stepanek, through Aug. 31 in the Johnson Lobby of the Boston Public Library’s Copley Square branch at 700 Boylston Street.
Stepanek, who was MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador, wrote seven best-selling books of poetry before his death of muscular dystrophy in 2004, three weeks shy of his 14th birthday.
“Mattie always said we must celebrate life, every day, in some way,” said J.C. Laven, District Director for MDA. “We are excited to partner with the Library to share his message of hope and peace, and to celebrate the inspiration that Mattie was to all of us.”
Stepanek began writing poetry at age 3 to help cope with the death of his older brother. Diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, Stepanek served as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador from 2002 to 2004. He wrote seven books of poetry, all of which made the New York Times’ Best Seller list. The first five, known as the Heartsongs series, were: Heartsongs, Journey Through Heartsongs, Hope Through Heartsongs, Celebrate Through Heartsongs and Loving Through Heartsongs. Stepanek wrote that a “heartsong” is a person’s special gift to be shared with others…a person’s “reason for being.”
Stepanek’s final two books were released after his death. His mother, Jeni Stepanek edited both Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs and Just Peace: A Message of Hope, a collection of essays and e-mail correspondence with Former President Jimmy Carter, which was awarded a Gold Medal in the IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year “Peacemaker” category in 2007. In his eulogy at Stepanek’s funeral, Jimmy Carter said, “We have known kings and queens, and we’ve known presidents and prime ministers, but the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepanek.”
The exhibit will display all seven of Stepanek’s books, as well as information about muscular dystrophy and what people can do to help MDA as it works toward a cure. Additionally, it will serve as a reminder for people to tune in to the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon and do their part to help local families affected by neuromuscular diseases. The Telethon, now in its 42nd year, will be broadcast locally on WCVB-TV 5 on September 2-3.

The exhibit is open during library hours: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit at the Library, call 617-536-5400, ext 2212.

MDA is a voluntary health agency working to defeat more than 40 neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive service, and far-reaching professional and public health education. For more information about MDA activities in the Greater Boston area, contact the MDA Boston office at 617.368.9155 or visit its MySpace page at

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