Young people and students

We Can learn A Lot From A Child


If you haven’t yet heard about Mattie Stepanek, let me tell you about him. In June 2004, three years before he would have been old enough to drive, he lost his brave battle with a rare and fatal neuromuscular disease.

In his life, he experienced the difficult loss of three siblings. He endured physical, emotional and spiritual pain. But Mattie was an astute young boy who had profound wisdom about things that matter most. He celebrated life every day. He recognized the beauty in everyday circumstance and he lived knowing happiness is never out of reach, if you just look with your heart.

Mattie began sharing his thoughts when he was just three years old. His poems and essays are among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. They are his legacy, his heartsongs.

Believing in Someday

We will all join hands
And live together…
Helping each other,
Loving each other,
We will all make the world
A much better place…
And be like a gigantic,
Smoothly rushing river of peace –
A loving circle that nothing can break,
We may start with just one person,
And one permanent peace agreement
Within one’s self, within one’s world.
Personal peace can then spread
Within and between the families,
Then within and between communities,
And then within and around the whole world.
We can become
As close to perfect
As anything and anyone can get.
Let us each join our own Heartsong
With this old song of the heart, and believe…
“Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”

Written in 2000 when Mattie was 9

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Building Blocks for Kids Helps Kids With Medical Needs To Thrive


They say friends are those who remain by our side through the good times and the hardships. They’re our crutch when we’ve been knocked down, and our wings when we’re ready to soar. They’re people like Dynette Clark – and Suzy Hummel, Liesl Roeder, and Bridget Kleinhenz, the co-founders of a unique foundation that provides funding for the medical needs of children when parents or guardians don’t have the financial resources or insurance coverage to pay for it.

The idea for Building Blocks for Kids Foundation evolved from one parent, Dynette, wanting more than anything to find $25,000 in assistance for a little girl’s necessary therapy not covered by insurance. The little girl’s mom, Judy, happens to be a close friend of Dynette’s. And, as friends do, Dynette wasn’t about to give up until she had the money in hand.

With the help of Suzy, Liesl, and Bridget, about $12,000 was raised in a 2002 fund raising event. One year later, the foundation had been created to help other kids as well. Seven children where given assistance in its second year, 21 children received funds in the third year, and about 50 kids are being helped annually now with much larger requests.

Some of what the Foundation funds are therapy, modifications to the living environment, programs and devices to help a child interact with his/her world, and mobility such as transportation adaptations. During the holiday season, Building Blocks for Kids has an Adopt a Child program. Pictures and information of children are posted on their website (the first 15 or so kids are those who are on the waiting list for funds) and individuals or groups can help pay for the child’s needs.

For more information on Building Blocks for Kids and their Adopt a Child program, you can visit their web site at

(Pictured: Dynette Clark holding Syndi, standing with Syndi’s mom Judy at the Foundation’s 2003 benefit)

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At 16, Chelsea Pitonyak has character


In Jeffrey Thomas Hayden’s short life, he was a gifted student, a competitor, and a good friend of Chelsea. He loved sports but he especially loved a challenge. That was to be his greatest strength and his greatest loss. It was September, 2004, one month shy of his 12th birthday, when he lost his valiant battle with an inoperable brain tumor. Chelsea was one of his biggest fans and prayerful supporters. His death left a chasm in her heart but she never wanted to forget her friend. Barely a teenager herself, she began the tireless journey alongside Jeffrey’s parents raising money and awareness to save the lives of other children sharing the same diagnosis. This fall marks the fifth year for Chelsea’s JTH Foundation Book Drive for Children’s Hospital held in her best friend’s memory. With more than 15 Lakota schools now involved, she’s collected more than $20,000 in books, dvd’s, and videos. Chelsea also volunteers for a therapeutic riding program at Winton Woods where she’s learned great respect for the children’s abilities to push themselves out of their comfort zones. Active in and out of school, she has earned the Bronze and Silver Awards in Girl Scouts and is a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Task Force Community Service Program, and has participated in mission trips to rural Liberty, Kentucky. “Community service is important to me because I should use my talents to help those in need. It is very fulfilling to be able to do good towards others and see it expand,” Chelsea said.

Chelsea is one of 40 teens who will be honored on November 6 by the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati for exemplifying the YMCA’s core character values – caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. In my communication work with the YMCA, I have had the greatest pleasure to learn about and get to know them all. They are true inspirations. Thank you to the YMCA for working to instill character values in young people, and for celebrating those who choose to live their lives with character!

To learn more about the YMCA Character Awards, you can visit

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