Shortly after Mattie’s death, citizens in his King Farm neighborhood of Rockville, MD established the volunteer-based, not-for-profit Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation with the mission of making Mattie’s message accessible to everyone. Early on, the Foundation collaborated with the City of Rockville to create Mattie’s Peace Garden, a key attraction in the city’s 26-acre Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park.
A life-size bronze statue of Mattie and his service dog, Micah, surrounded by chess tables is central to Peace Garden, which was created based on visual imagery and quotes in Mattie’s final book, Just Peace. Visitors can also listen to Mattie’s voice from a nearby sound post, enjoying excerpts from Mattie’s poetry, peace speeches, and songs created with his lyrics. Throughout the park are quotes from Mattie’s books and speeches on benches and plaques. Each year, new personalized gift bricks are added to the ‘mosaic of gifts’ walkways and ‘concentric circles of support’ in the Peace Garden. These bricks, engraved with personal messages or tributes, represent sponsors from more than 20 countries.
The park was dedicated on October 18, 2008, with a ceremony and celebration party was attended by thousands, including Oprah Winfrey, Nile Rodgers, Billy Gilman, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Harley-Davidson Owners Groups, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, school children, politicians, media representatives, and many other friends and fans. Teen band, Creation, performed their song We Need to Stop, based on Mattie’s 9/11 poetry. And, spiritual composer, Pepper Choplin, set words from Mattie’s final peace speech to music, and a combined-choir performed the debut of Look Up Way Down.
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park is located at 1800 Piccard Drive in Rockville, MD near Shady Grove Road. In addition to the Peace Garden, amenities include a playground and picnic area, football and soccer fields, tennis and basket ball courts, bank shot, a dog park, green space and jogging paths, and a concession stand (open during city-run activities).