Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 Success!!!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2003. Mattie was one year old. Peter snapped this photo of Mattie and me. Mattie was never wild about eating, and forget about sitting in his high chair. He thought the whole notion of being strapped into a chair and asked to eat, as curtailing his freedom and spirit. So to get Mattie to eat, it involved games, toys, and a lot of goofing around. As you can see I was doing all sorts of things and clearly Mattie had a big smile on his face! Once Mattie was distracted and in a good mood, you would be amazed at the amount of food I could get into his mouth!


Quote of the day: Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.Harper Lee




Harper Lee's quote about the mockingbird actually makes me laugh. I am laughing because for the past few weeks Sunny and I have been attacked by mockingbirds. At first I thought it was a fluke, but now I see a pattern. I literally feel like I am living a scene out of Hitchcock's movie, The Birds. I have never been scared of birds before, until these mockingbird encounters. But just like in Hitchcock's movie, I have observed mockingbirds staring at Sunny and I, following us with their eyes, and then dive bomb us, and NIP Sunny's hind legs. Poor Sunny doesn't get what's happening!!!

These mockingbird encounters have been bothering me so much that I researched the topic.... Mockingbirds nipping at dogs. The one article I found was from the 1950's, but it was SPOT ON:

Hailman wrote an article called, The Mockingbird's "tail up" display to mammals near the nesthttps://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals /wilson/v075n04/p0414-p0417.pdf


The article says, "The displaying bird orients itself facing the dog and cocks its tail vertically, spreading it slightly so that the white of the outer tail feathers lines the edges of the tail. The body is held nearly horizontally, with the head directed at the dog." 
At one time I liked mockingbirds, as they have an amazing vocal repertoire! Now if I see a mockingbird, I usually grab a hold of Sunny and head in a different direction!
This is in essence what I am seeing. Mockingbirds hover overhead, circling near us, as if they will land on my head. They never have, but each time they come and nip Sunny on the leg. 

The article says.... "In several cases, dogs did approach the nest, and this provoked the birds to attack, even though the dogs showed no overt hostility toward them. In these cases, the Mockingbird usually dived from the rear and slightly to the side of the moving dog and displayed its tail and wings quite prominently in the swoop. Several birds observed swooped to one side of the dog and then the other alternately for as many as eight passes without a break. Occasionally a diving Mockingbird actually struck a dog with its claws." 

June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2003. Mattie was about a year old and my parents and I took him to the Reston Zoo. The beauty of this Zoo is that it is small and a very hands on experience for children. To me it is the ideal Zoo. As you can see here, Mattie was intrigued by the sheep. The Zoo provides food and bottles for you to feed the animals and Mattie loved the feeding process. Because it was such a positive environment for Mattie, we visited the Reston Zoo often throughout his toddler and preschool years. 


Quote of the day: I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~ Gilda Radner


I can get in a bad mood and can live in this state for a few days. Yesterday's phone call that I was on set me off, and it continues to carry over to today. What instantaneously puts me in a bad mood is when I feel that the work of Mattie Miracle isn't appreciated and acknowledged. Unlike other things I have done, my work with Mattie Miracle is very personal and therefore when this work is not understood, it makes me upset. 

Of course regardless of my mood, I have Sunny on hand. He is very consistent as are his needs and behaviors. However, this morning my routine was off. He knows my every move and has STUDIED it well. But today I confused him because I threw on clothes to sit outside for breakfast. Typically Sunny knows the routine of breakfast, showering, and then walking with me. Since I did not follow my usual routine, check out the look Sunny was giving me from the stair case. He wasn't sure whether to go back upstairs because I hadn't showered yet or to come down the steps because I was dressed and potentially we would be going out for a walk. 

While confused, Sunny had his front paws on one step and his hind paws and rear on the step above. Seeing a 60 pound dog sitting like this on two steps is a riot. Sunny provides diversion and comedic relief to our lives. Which helps during period funks. 

June 23, 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017


Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2004. Mattie was two years old and as you can see he had flopped into Peter's lap. This was a rare occurrence in our home. Since Mattie had two modes.... on and off. There was no napping or down time. Typically if Mattie wanted to rest his head, that meant he had a fever and wasn't feeling well. Resting was so unusual to see, that when Mattie did stop moving I photographed it!








Quote of the day: Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.  Aristotle



Aristotle's quote was BRILLIANT. There are a lot of things within the childhood cancer space that anger me. Let's start with the disease itself! Which of course is intertwined with the fact that the disease killed Mattie and changed our lives forever. For the most part I am a very level headed person and people tell me all kinds of things, and I don't fly off the handle. But when you start talking about Mattie Miracle, well watch out. It takes great restraint from me not to lash out, especially when I feel two things..... 1) you don't understand the complexities of the childhood cancer non-profit space, and 2) you don't truly comprehend or appreciate what Mattie Miracle does. 

Today I was on a phone call, and retreated from responding. That was the most mature thing I could do, because when so livid, nothing professional nor kind was going to come out of my mouth. So at first I felt angry over this particular conversation. But then I reflected on Aristotle's quote and realize my issues are truly bigger than the phone call. I realize all parents who lose a child to cancer, need to express their grief in their own way. I certainly don't judge that, but there is a fine line between loving your child and honoring their memory and exploiting a very bad situation in order to raise funds. It is the latter that I take grave issue with. 

We live in a society that doesn't always reward or acknowledge substance. I think that is ultimately what makes me mad. Instead of valuing what Mattie Miracle does based on its proven merit, we have a society that rewards gimmicks. In the childhood cancer space there are many of these gimmicks or diversions as I call them. What for example? Let's take mountain climbing, walking, and bicycle riding across the country. Several non-profits select these formats and solicit families living with childhood cancer for money, in order to post a deceased child's name at certain mile markers along the cross country journey. Clearly, there are many ways to react to this, and since these fundraisers tend to generate six figures at least, you can surmise there are many families eager to support this type of activity. I fall on the other end of the spectrum. I find these gimmicks insulting and meaningless. Why? Because I find the gimmicks water down the cause you are fighting for, and worse it takes the focus off the important issue at hand and shrouds it in something more fun and media catching. 

If you doubt this then take the Ice Bucket Challenge for example. An activity in which you video tape a bucket of water being tossed on you and then you tag friends on Facebook and challenge them to do the same within 24 hours, video record it, post it to Facebook and then they have to challenge five more people. If you decide NOT to do the challenge then you were requested to contribute financially to the ALS association. This gimmick was fraught with controversy. I included two articles below that talk about the issue at hand. 

Gimmicks are catchy and they certainly generate funds. But what is the overall impact long term on a non-profit who does gimmicks. Given my almost 8 years of experience running Mattie Miracle, I can say the key to running a successful non-profit is to have values, principles, and be true to your mission and cause. Gimmicks make you lose sight of this. Certainly it takes longer to build a solid supporter base, but at the end of the day as a Foundation leader, you have to live with yourself and the mark you are making for the cause.  

Here are two articles on the ice bucket challenge. That is just the gimmick I selected as an example, but you can replace the challenge with another gimmick, and to me the end result will be the same. 


Herrera wrote in the Huffington Post, "But in the bottom of my heart and in the back of my business-oriented mind, I want people to care. I want them to connect and to be a part of something not because it’s the trendy thing, or because they want to look good to others, but because they are somehow moved and inspired by the stories, the videos, and the photos that, thanks to social media, we are able to share far and wide. So while I agree with the mentality that “something is better than nothing,” I still think we should take a good look at why we are getting involved — is it for ourselves, or for cause?"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacqueline-herrera/why-the-ice-bucket-challenge-is-not-good_b_5703368.html


Hiltzik wrote in the LA Times, "The explosive spread of the ice bucket challenge could even end up hurting ALS fundraising in the long term. The challenge is a fad, and fads by their nature burn out--the brighter they glow, the sooner they disappear. The hard work of philanthropy always lies in creating a sustainable donor base. But the ice bucket challenge has all the hallmarks of something that will be regarded in 2015 as last year's thing."

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-ice-bucket-challenge-20140818-column.html


June 22, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2005. This was what our deck used to look like.... filled with Mattie's toys and the occasional kiddie pool. This was Mattie's first pool that he received from Peter's parents. But I would have to say we went through at least three or four pools and every year they seemed to only have gotten larger. One year, the pool took up half of our deck! But it was an activity Mattie enjoyed and so I looked past the inconvenience. It wasn't as if Mattie liked to swim. What he loved was throwing his cars, trucks, and trains in the pool and making up play schemes with water and his vehicles. 


Quote of the day: How did it get so late so soon? Dr. Seuss


I love Dr. Seuss' quote tonight because somehow it relates to the kind of day I had. In many ways it was like I did not exist today, because I did not interact with the outside world at all! I was busy with laundry and a complete focus on writing Mattie Miracle's June newsletter. Fortunately Peter took Sunny with him to work today, which gave me more concentrated time. But without Sunny, my life is a blur. Which is one of the reasons I really wanted a dog. Sunny requires me to move, walk, and get outside. Without him, my reality looks a bit different. Even with all the concentrated time today, I did not finish the newsletter. It isn't like I just write it and it's done! I have to organize photos, organize walk facts, and then on top of that deal with computer issues. When electronics are involved, nothing just runs smoothly. I spent more time creating and re-creating things in order for them to visually look appealing on the electronic newsletter platform. Needless to say, I am WIPED out from looking at a computer screen. But I have more in store for me tomorrow, until this newsletter gets done. 

One of my friends in cancer today wrote to me, and asked me whether I feel like each day is a repeat of the day before!? That is actually an astute comment, because I would DEFINITELY say YES. That maybe how a good chunk of people feel on a regular basis anyway, because we all get into ruts. Therefore our routines can wear us down and we feel almost like we repeat the same pattern from the day before.

When you lose an only child to cancer, you are not just in a rut. You have instead fallen into a deep hole and have nothing to really serve as a benchmark or time point for you anymore. When you have a child, you have to keep your days of the week straight. You have to know what month it is, and when in doubt your child's schedule of school and activities will drill it into you. Losing a child, doesn't only mean a loss of a future, but it always means that you lose your internal time clock. While I see my friends with children progressing on and doing things...... vacations, graduations, religious ceremonies etc, for me life remains constantly the same. As if I am trapped in time, a time warp. For me, Mattie is always 7, I remain the same age, and I typically am confused about what day of the week it is. This reality can make you feel rather disengaged and disconnect. But when my friend mentioned this to me today, as she was checking in on her own feelings, her verbalization made me pause because clearly...... It's NOT just a Vicki issue! It's an issue for bereaved parents period!


June 21, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Tonight's video was posted to YouTube in 2009. This is another one I recently founded and decided to post it on the blog. This was classic Mattie. He decided to sit by the piano and just play. He was making up the music, out of his head. Keep in mind that I had to carry Mattie to the piano bench, as he could no longer walk, nor lift his arms over his head. Which was a result of limb salvaging surgery. What is a hoot about this video is that while Mattie was playing, the phone rang. Watch his response to this!!!



Quote of the day: I am not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless. Whitney Young




Look who is DOG of the WEEK at Dogtopia!!!! The Dogtopia team emailed me today and said, "Sunny is Dog of the Week according to the boards! We all know he's Dog of the year though!"

You can see the actual posting in two places....on their website  (https://www.dogtopia.com/alexandria/and on their electronic board located in the waiting area of Dogtopia of Alexandria. 

Sunny has only stayed at Dogtopia two times so far, but I can see he has worked his charms on a few of the caregivers already. It was so lovely to receive this email today. I feel quite certain that Sunny was a therapy dog of some sort before coming to us. Why? Not only because of his calm and gentle demeanor, but because he really sticks close to one person and follows them around. He watches my every move, if I go upstairs so does he. He comes with
me practically everywhere. He responses to hugs, pets, and affection. As he can give it, he also needs to receive it. He is a fascinating animal to be caring for.

This photo on the left was taken in June of 2016, when he was living in a shelter in South Carolina. This is the ONLY data I had on Sunny, when I selected him electronically from the rescue shelter. I knew he was five years old and a border collie mix. But I KNEW nothing about his personality, disposition, or behaviors. Yet when I saw this photo, I saw something in his eyes that caught my attention. To me, he looked smart and loving. I was RIGHT on both accounts! But it was risky to rescue a dog sight unseen. Fortunately the rescue shelter here in DC gives you a trial week to see if it is the right match for your family. As soon as Sunny saw me enter the room of his foster family's home last September, he walked right up to me and took to me immediately and then sat in Peter's lap. So I think he understood he had found his forever home. 

June 20, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 --- Mattie died 405 weeks ago today.


Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2004. Mattie was two years old and you can see he had a sense of humor. The yellow glasses he was wearing, and upside down at that, were the glasses that went to his toy, Mr. Potato Head. Mattie thought if the potato could wear the glasses then so could he. Mattie and I were good at being zany together. If I started it, he would play right along. 







Quote of the day: The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows. ~ Audrey Hepburn


As Sunny and I were walking today, I saw a truck backing up into the green space you see in this photo. This park is near our home and since I can remember, I have never ventured into this park to sit on a bench. You can't! The benches are always filled with homeless people. Though this park is run by the National Park Service, this park is the meeting ground of homeless people by day and who knows what at night. At times the grouping of homeless people has gotten out of hand with tents and BBQ's, which can be dangerous. As this group caused a fire. But my major issue is the graffiti that shows up. It was the worst I have ever seen it. I reported this wall by the park last year and the city came to clean it. But the graffiti practically multiplied this year and it was hateful to see on each of my morning walks with Sunny. 

So in May I reported it once again to the city and sent in photos. The truck backing up today into the park was from the city. I could tell this from a distance, so Sunny and I walked over to thank these men for their service and for beautifying our city. I am not a graffiti fan, I don't even care for it when it is artistic. If it isn't supposed to be there, I don't want to see it, and instead it diminishes the beauty of our Nation's capital. The men I spoke to today told me they cleaned this wall last year too, and are well aware of the fact that once they clean something, people will deface the property again. They
seemed just as frustrated as me. They also mentioned that they cleaned the other two areas I reported in May (These two photos are the other two locations). The other two areas I drive by, so the next time I am in my car, rest assured I will be assessing these walls. 

If you look at the overpass in the first photo I posted, you see that a portion of the wall is covered in black paint. That is the paint that came off the walls from the cleaning. They use chemicals and a power washer to remove the graffiti and while they were doing it, you can see that the bi-product was the paint seeping down the wall. However, even this is better to look at than the wall behind the silver fence completely covered with words, scribbles, and ugliness. 

June 19, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017


Monday, June 19, 2017

Unlike with typical blog postings, I am starting tonight's with a video rather than a photo. I came across this video yesterday while we were uploading the 2017 Walk video to YouTube. I certainly remember this day in March of 2009, but I forgot that I videotaped that moment. In some ways watching videos is FAR MORE real than a still photo. Which is also why I don't watch Mattie videos on a regular basis. In this particular video Mattie's school counselor came by the hospital and dropped off a pre-birthday card and big balloon to him. I wanted to capture Mattie's reaction to all of this. You can see he was being partly shy about this whole thing but nonetheless you can see Mattie's character shining through. 



Quote of the day: The greatest challenge in life is to be our own person and accept that being different is a blessing and not a curse. A person who knows who they are lives a simple life by eliminating from their orbit anything that does not align with his or her overriding purpose and values. A person must be selective with their time and energy because both elements of life are limited. 
~ Kilroy J. Oldster



Get the feeling for the rain in DC today? It went from light rain to torrential. With the intense heat and humidity we have, such rain is to be expected. I am not a rain person but now that I have Sunny, I really AM NOT a rain person. With a dog, it doesn't matter the weather, you have to walk him. I got used to the winter by purchasing the right coat and gloves for long walks. But it is hard to protect one's self from rain. 
Sunny doesn't like thunder or lightning. In fact it sends him hiding! His most secure thunder place is the walk-in closet in Mattie's bedroom. But today, he settled for going under the dining room table and sitting on Peter's feet! 

When I was growing up, we had a collie named Heidi. Heidi also didn't like thunder and lightning and whenever she heard it she would urinate all over the house. I told Peter we are lucky Sunny only hides!!!


When I returned home today, Sunny was waiting for me right by the front door! Sunny keeps a bead on me at ALL times!!!

















Peter captured the pet reunion on the deck today through our front door screen! You would think these two hadn't seen me all day!!! I was only gone a couple of hours, but I had a full escort into the front hallway.