About the Foundation
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, created in 2005 to continue the work of the late teen poet and peace activist, Mattie J.T. Stepanek. During Mattie's ‘almost 14 years' of life, he penned seven New York Times bestselling books of "Heartsongs" poetry and peace essays, and served as an ambassador for many peace- and disability-related organizations. Born on July 17, 1990, Mattie began creating and sharing "Heartsongs" at the young age of 3. He explained that Heartsongs are "gifts that reflect each person's unique reason for being." Mattie died in 2004 from complications of a rare neuromuscular disease. His mother, Jeni Stepanek, carries on his work through the Foundation.
One work of the Foundation was supporting the creation of Mattie's Peace Garden in the King Farm Community of Rockville, MD. The Peace Garden features sculptures of Mattie and his service dog, Micah, at the center of a seating area with concrete chess tables. The Peace Garden is part of a 26-acre park named for Mattie that includes multiple recreational facilities.
The Foundation sells sponsorships for personalized bricks that are formed into Pathways for Peace within the Peace Garden. Funds raised in this manner support the work of the Foundation, including delivering educational programs at schools, churches and other organizations.
"I wanted to be able to create posters and other printed support materials for these educational sessions, and I also wanted to be able to host an annual Peace Celebration," Stepanek says. "It takes paper and print to do programs like this. I know the world is going paperless, but you still need something people can hold in their hands. You have to start with touching it so you can reflect on it as you learn."
After learning about the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, 48HourPrint decided to include the Foundation in Giving Across America™ , its philanthropic outreach program.
"We help the biggest and smallest nonprofit organizations raise much-needed funds through affordable printed products like direct mail postcards , brochures , calendars , door hangers , notepads , magnets and greeting cards ," says Ali Westcott, Senior Director of Marketing at 48HourPrint.com. "We also support the community through the Giving Across America™ program, which donates thousands of dollars in free printing to charities every year."
Each year since 2007, according to Westcott, the company sets aside print credits to be awarded to 501(c)(3) charities and organizations to help them spread the word for their causes and missions though printed materials like posters , invitations, greeting cards , envelopes , bumper stickers , notepads and more. The company reviews applications they receive quarterly and provide credits which can be used for any of the 45 products the company produces, she says. More than 100 organizations have been assisted by this program in the past five years. Nonprofits can apply for a donation on the company's website.
The Mattie Foundation was a lucky recipient of significant printing credits for projects in 2011 and 2012. These credits will support the development and printing of brochures, ‘passport guides,' inspirational postcards , educational posters, and more for the Foundation's Peace Celebration and other peace-related endeavors, including the Pathways to Peace and For Our World programs.
"Without the generosity of 48HourPrint, we would not have been able to afford the printing required to effectively support our work," Stepanek says. "As a result of their generosity, we were able to hold the first Peace Celebration in the summer of 2011."
The Foundation was expecting more than 500 people to attend the Peace Celebration. "Unfortunately," says Stepanek, "it was pouring rain that day, and I was really disheartened, ready to cancel the event. My team stuck with me, though, and encouraged me to go on with the event. We had about 350 attend, and they stayed even with the pouring rain. The inspirational postcards , posters and other printed materials we were able to produce both attracted people to the event, and gave them takeaways to remind them of the event and to remind them that that if everyone just does a little bit toward peace, sharing Mattie's message, we can make a difference."
The Peace Celebration consisted of 11 tents, each with a different bit of inspiration that is a part of Mattie's message of peace. Stepanek says, "People came, they danced, played games, did various activities, even learned about the Alpacas for Peace that braved the weather with participants. Everyone was smiling. It was symbolic of Mattie's perseverance that so many people came out in the pouring rain and chose to stay because that was what Mattie stood for. They felt it was a gift that made them feel closer to Mattie and the message we wanted to share."
In 2012, Stepanek and the Foundation plan to expand their poster program by creating a series of posters targeted at different age groups. Posters are complementary to inspirational postcards and are used at educational events as well as at the Peace Celebration. Plans are also underway to produce a booklet that is more geared to teens and adults, who can think more abstractly than younger children.
"You might wonder what a printing company has to do with peace, and I say everything," Stepanek says. "We work every day to help people understand the difference between what we need to survive, what we want to thrive and what we have to share. What we share should not be just what we have an overabundance of. 48HourPrint is a classic example of sharing resources and choosing peace. We are grateful for their support."