His battle with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which claimed the lives of his three siblings and was threatening his own survival, only seemed to make his spirit stronger. He used his incredible gift of insight to write poetry he called "Heartsongs," extending hope to people of all ages.
Mattie hadn't yet reached his 14th birthday when he passed away on June 22, 2004, but he made an immeasurable impact on the world in his lifetime. "From the moment I met Mattie Stepanek, I knew it was my privilege that this courageous little boy had drifted into my life," Oprah said.
In October 2008, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park opened in Rockville, Maryland. A bronze statue of Mattie was dedicated to the park in his memory. "His is still with us," Oprah said in a speech at the park's opening. "He's in the trees, in the grass and in the hearts of all of us who loved him."
Watch a tribute to Mattie