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: 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

August 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2004. We took Mattie to Travel Town, one of his favorite places to visit in Los Angeles. Why? Because it was a museum filled with trains that children could climb, run around in, blow their whistles, play with gears and walk on the tracks. A real find for anyone enamored with trains. LIKE MATTIE! Notice what else came along for the trip... Mr. Sippy Cup! That cup came everywhere, as Mattie loved drinking milk. I always had a cooler bag with me, so when sippy cup was needed..... there it was. Our joke was Mattie was going to have the strongest bones around..... we never imagined it would be possible for him to instead develop bone cancer.

Quote of the day: Every great work, every big achievement, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement. ~ Florence Scovel Shinn

In 2013, Animal Planet aired a TV program called, "A Wild Affair" featuring the only sign language trained orangutan in the world named Chantex. Chantex (which means lovely and beautiful) was born December 17, 1977, at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He mastered the use of a number of intellectual skills, including sign language, and was taught by American anthropologists Lyn Miles and Ann Southcombe. My parents and I happened to watch this documentary last night. It is definitely worth seeing and truly as you are watching this you are fascinated by Chantex's bright and sensitive nature.

Dr. Miles hypothesis was that nurture in a way could supersede nature. Meaning that if you raised an orangutan with humans, he would develop human communication patterns and also live life more like a human child than an ape. Remember this was the 1970s, a time where social science research was fascinated with communication, how humans communicate with each other, language acquisition skills and identifying critical periods during which humans learn to understand and use language. All great, but what was lacking in 1970s research was the ethical implications of conducting such studies on the lives of human/animal subjects. In Chantex's situation, Dr. Miles didn't consider the long term ramifications on Chantex. After all, an ape of this size couldn't possibly live with humans all his life, and yet, how do you transition such an animal back into the wild after teaching him sign language and raising him with humans? Complex questions that would need to be evaluated today before any institutional review board would allow such a study! Yet in all fairness to Dr. Miles, such review boards did not exist back then.
Chantek is now 36-year-old and lives at the Zoo Atlanta since 1997. In the years prior to his arrival at Zoo Atlanta, Chantek had a very unconventional upbringing in that he was reared by humans in a human setting (pictured with Dr. Miles). As part of a language research project, he was taught American Sign Language (ASL) as a juvenile. Chantex lived with Dr. Miles for almost 9 years and then after several incidents (breaking out of his home, scaring students, destruction of property) living on a college campus in Tennessee, the university insisted that the research stop and Chantex be sent back to Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Chantex was there for 11 years, locked in a cage and dealing with depression and other issues. Imagine living freely and amongst humans, to then living in cage and isolated.  
Chantek has a vocabulary of over 150 modified ESL signs, and he also understands spoken English. Chantek makes and uses tools and even understands the concepts of money and work-exchange.

While at the University of Tennessee, he possessed the spatial comprehension to direct a driving-route from the university to the closest Dairy Queen, and the mental comprehension to refer to events that happened years ago. He enjoys creative projects and makes paintings, necklaces, crafts and music. The photo shows Chantex with Ann, purchasing a cheeseburger at a local drive thru.

Chantex growing up and playing at the University of Tennessee. He quickly understood that if he complied with chores, he got positive feedback and rewards such as play time and all sorts of tasty treats.
Chantex grew to be 500 pounds when he was transferred to the Atlanta Zoo. No surprise since he had been eating people food consisting of ice cream, candy, soda, and so forth! As a result of living at the zoo and eating a more orangutan friendly diet, he is now 295 pounds.
I honestly think that Dr. Miles was heart broken that her research came to an end. She literally was bonded with Chantex and treated almost like her child. She still visits him today at the zoo and through his cage communicates to him by signing. This is a very deeply meaningful documentary that leaves you with many thoughts, feelings, and questions. I naturally view this from a 2016 lens, but need to remember how cutting edge research this was for the 1970s, and despite the challenges Chantex faced, I do believe Dr. Miles really loves Chantex and wants what is best for him and his life. To me this bond she had with Chantex was almost as fascinating as her language research!

1 comment:

Margy Jost said...

Dear Vicki,

I learn so much from your posts. Your quote, clearly links to the ultimate fate of Chantex. What an amazing relationship of love & caring grew from their work together. At least, the opportunity is there for visits but still rather sad.

Mattie was so adventurous. I love pictures where his smile fills the page but equally the ones where he is intently watching & listening.