Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 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

May 4, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2004. We took Mattie to Roosevelt Island and Peter was teaching him how to skip a stone in the water. Roosevelt Island was the perfect setting for Mattie because it gave him the room to explore trees, climbing rocks, learn about birds, deer, and even wild turkeys. Not to mention water to play with his toy motor boats!

Quote of the day: Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. ~ Lao Tzu

There is great truth in tonight's quote. I would say that loving Mattie deeply gave us extraordinary courage, courage under the worst of circumstances. When I reflect on our life in the hospital, dealing with horrific treatments, side effects from treatment, constant stimulation from hospital equipment, personnel coming into our room non-stop, and the overall lack of personal space and privacy, I am not sure how we managed all of this. Most days, if not hours, we were dealing with life and death decisions. We were adults, trying to help a six year old cope with a life threatening illness, and yet we ourselves were scared and uncertain of what we were doing in our new found home, a hospital. But what it comes down to, is when you love someone, you find the energy, where with all, and determination to make things better, to take charge even under the most toxic of situations, and to instill security and hope.

I never left our home today. I moved from one Walk task to the other. Peter was right besides me working as well. A good portion of my day was spent staging 11 out of 12 raffle baskets. The raffle coordination is a full time endeavor. It takes months of brainstorming raffle themes, the solicitation of stores and companies, purchasing items to fill in the gaps, and now the arranging and staging of items within each basket to make it look enticing. I never did 11 baskets at one time, but I did it today. It was exhausting. So now I have 11 staged, but tomorrow I have to finish wrapping them with cellophane and bows. Which is NO easy process. I am hoping to show you photos soon of each of these creations!!! 

May 3, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2003. I took Mattie to the Reston, VA petting zoo and he absolutely loved the experience. Mattie always related to animals and as you can see he was intrigued by the sheep and put his little hand right through the fence to touch the fleece. The beauty of the Reston Zoo is that it is small, manageable, and not crowded. Mattie did not like crowds or a lot of noise as toddler therefore this was the perfect zoo for him. We visited it often and Mattie enjoyed feeding the animals, riding the ponies, and even taking tractor rides around the zoo.

Quote of the day: The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people. ~ Randy Pausch

It is 11:30pm and I am literally staring at the blog screen trying to muster the energy to write something. It was another busy day of running around as the Foundation's walk is approaching fast. It maybe the weekend, but for us it will be another intense two days of working! I appreciate you checking in with us today and hopefully tomorrow I will have more energy to write.


May 2, 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2005. Each spring Peter's parents would literally mail a coconut from Florida to Mattie. This coconut was not mailed in a box! Instead, unlike how we see coconuts in the grocery store, this coconut had its husk intact. The coconut literally came right off of a tree and its hard and fibrous husk served as a great packing box. It was always a riot to see a coconut with an address and postage on it. Mattie got a kick out of it, but what was even more entertaining was the process of removing the husk from this coconut. The coconut mailings were a tradition, so much so that we introduced the fresh coconut to Mattie's preschool class and Mattie's kindergarten class. Both classes were stunned to see a coconut with an address on it and they loved watching Peter cut it open using tools and even an electric saw. This really illustrated to the kids just how hard a coconut husk is! Neither Peter nor I can look at a coconut the same way anymore.

Quote of the day: The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. ~ Unknown

I am working on several things at once tonight. So I am making this a short posting. Peter helped me photograph all the items we have collected so far for the April item drive for the Hospital. This drive was held in honor of Mattie's 11th birthday. The response to our call for items has been incredible!!! In this large pile can be found keurig coffee and tea cups, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, bars of soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower gel, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, nail files, razors, shaving cream, lip balm, and other miscellaneous items. All these items will be very useful and appreciated by in-patient family members caring for a sick child at Georgetown University Hospital. Tomorrow morning, I head to Georgetown to donate these gifts! To each and every one of you who contributed to this item drive, I thank you and congratulate you for making this possible. We are helping many, many families in memory of Mattie.


May 1, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2007. Mattie was my laundry buddy, but then again he really had no other choice. If we wanted clean clothes, he had to come with me to the laundry room. There was no way I was leaving him home alone, while I went down three floors. Doing laundry with Mattie was a task, but I had to make it fun. Whether that was taking a bicycle on an elevator down to the laundry room, or even riding in the cart with the dirty laundry! With Mattie, there was always adventure. Today as I did my laundry, I realized yet again, I was missing both my laundry buddy and Patches who would watch me like a tennis match going back and forth, up and down the stairs putting the laundry away.

Quote of the day: Time extracts various values from a painter's work. When these values are exhausted the pictures are forgotten, and the more a picture has to give, the greater it is. ~ Henri Matisse

For the past several weeks, I have worked with a kindergarten class at Mattie's school and have conducted a three part series on Matisse and Picasso. Tonight's quote caught my attention, especially since I have been immersed in these two great 20th century painters for a month now. Matisse's quote was actually brilliant if you absorb and analyze it! What he was saying is that when values and in essence meaning are no longer associated with an item or activity, then to some extent these items, activities, or even people are forgotten. I reflect on this quote even as I plan our Foundation Walk. Planning a childhood cancer awareness walk is a humbling experience and with each year, I learn more about the overall process and what may potentially attract attendees. Sometimes what may attract attendees does not always coincide with my core values and view of childhood cancer. I do not plan on elaborating on this now, but I could write a book on planning an event, and my desperate need to keep Mattie's memory alive. I do find when the event moves away from this purpose, I then question the motivation for the event. Naturally I must look at the greater good of hosting such an event, which is needed to keep the Foundation  alive and thriving, and therefore in a more subtle way this ultimately keeps Mattie's memory alive. But Matisse was SO right, without values, the "pictures" are indeed forgotten. As I had this mental realization today, I was with my friend Tina, who was savvy enough to know that it was time for CHOCOLATE! Amazing how a chocolate cupcake can at least temporarily stabilize me! 

Today was the end of my three part series of Matisse and Picasso. This was a very memorable class I interacted with this year. So much so that many children hugged me and I even received a hand crafted thank you note from the whole class and a picture that was designed by the girls in the class for me to take home. When I arrived today I got a huge greeting and one student even asked me at the end of the session when I was coming back again. Naturally something motivates me to do this each year. These sessions take a great deal of planning, set up, and implementation. It would make sense if I did these art sessions because Mattie was alive and attending this school, but he is not, so why do I do it? There is no simple answer to this complex question. Maybe on some level these children remind me of Mattie, after all remember Mattie only completed kindergarten, so in many ways my world has been stunted at kindergarten and perhaps I am looking for a way to reconnect with a child. Not a child Mattie's current age if he were alive today (11 years old), but at a child's age that I remember Mattie to be at!
Yesterday I entered Donna's classroom and set up this simple still life composition (that you see above) so the children could paint it today. This is my third year doing this, and I have learned over time, that simple is better. The first year, I had more elaborate fruits and flowers, and it was just too overwhelming and confusing.
Through today's PowerPoint, the children learned about the friendship and intense rivalry between Matisse and Picasso. The children did not know what the word rival meant at first, but they caught on quickly. The beauty of this powerful relationship between artists was that it inspired both of them to perfect their own technique and then over time, they were so intrigued with each other's style, that Matisse (the master of color) began to incorporate drawing and shapes into his works and Picasso (the master of shapes) integrated pattern and vibrant colors into his works. What they gained from each other was sheer brilliance, a brilliance that would never have occurred without the competition and jealousy between them. I should also note however that despite this rivalry, both artists would admit that no one understood them better both artistically and emotionally than each other. A powerful friendship indeed! Both were very different men, different temperaments and styles, and yet at the core there was an intense bond.
The children got to see numerous examples today of still lives painted by Matisse and Picasso. We first discussed what a still life was and how such inanimate objects could represent nature (trees, plants, flowers, rocks, fruit, etc), or they could be man made (jewelry, vase, tablecloth, etc). The children had the scene with my sunflowers and fruit in front of them and they were told to paint what they saw using a style like Picasso, Matisse, or the integration of styles (which would mean using shapes and colors). What transpired was amazing!!! Keep in mind these children are 5 and 6 years old. This particular painting has a Matisse quality to it, with vibrant colors, but colors that take a liberal license. Not necessarily colors true to form. Just like Matisse, he felt that things in nature should not be limited to their actual colors! So sunflowers could be red and purple!
I created a ballot and each child got to vote independently in a make sift "polling booth" inside the classroom. On the ballot they had to check a box as to which artist they preferred, Matisse or Picasso. It was almost a tie, but Matisse won the vote today. This second painting clearly shows another example of Matisse's style with bananas that are green!
This student decided to integrate a window within her painting. The classroom does have a window in it, but I am also aware of the fact that many of Matisse's paintings that I showed them feature a window within them. Somehow this student captured the vibrant yellows and blues of the actual still life before them in the classroom.
This fourth painting was created by one of the boy's in the classroom. This particular fellow caught my attention, because I noticed early on that he has an artistic side to him. In my perspective he did a beautiful job of blending the styles of Picasso and Matisse together.
This young lady desperately wanted black paint. I did not set out black paint today, but she had a plan and really wanted to execute it. So I gave her black paint! As you can see the black paint she used gave depth to her sunflowers and her bananas. I would never have thought to fill the canvas background with pink, but to me, it is eye catching and so vibrant!
Honestly, when I look at these paintings, these students inspire me to want to paint. I consider myself artistic, but I can't paint at ALL! I have tried to get these students to self express for three weeks now through their art, and my mantra is "there is no right or wrong way to do art." I wish perhaps someone drilled that into my head when I was their age, because then I may not be so hesitant to paint now. Needless to say, I ended the class today with my usual question.... "how many of you consider yourself to be an artist?!" EVERYONE raised their hands this week!! Excellent response.
The fellow who did the fourth painting above came up to me and wanted me to know that in his free time he transformed the cover of his little notebook. He wanted to show it to me to see my reaction. Check out this notebook! I was so impressed with this miniature creation that I asked him if I could photograph it!!! When you see students integrate what they are learning into their everyday lives, then a teacher knows she was successful!
I ended my third session, like all my other sessions, with a snack. But today's snack was special. I provided them with a buffet of fruits. My thinking is they painted a still life, so then they should be able to eat one. The week before I had Donna assess their top three fruit choices. This year's class voted on strawberries, pineapple, and mangoes. When I tell you their faces lit up over this buffet, I am NOT kidding. They loved the fruits and particularly loved the fact that I brought in fudge, marshmallow sauce, and caramel for them to dip the fruits into. In a way it was like a special party for them with plates, forks, napkins, and a tablecloth. Needless to say, I think it was a memorable day for many of them and in turn their smiles, laughter, and creations will always be remembered and appreciated by me.

April 30, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 -- Mattie died 190 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2005. Mattie was three years old and loved this rocking duck. This duck belonged to Peter when he was a child, so it experienced two generations of 'Brown' boys! This duck is still in our living room, right where Mattie left it. I would imagine most parents donate their child's items or hand them down to others to use. When you lose a child, it is as if your life and time stops. Giving your child's items away seems unnatural because in this case things do make the connection more real.

Quote of the day: Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic. ~ Oscar Wilde

I had a very busy day of RUNNING around. From one thing to the next and despite all that I am doing, MORE needs to be done!!! It is that time of year for the Foundation. Later in the afternoon, I headed to Mattie's school to set up for my last art session tomorrow. When you work with 5 and 6 year olds, you have to be prepared and ready to go. Otherwise you will lose their attention and interest. So literally all my hands on assignments have to be set up the day before! The photo I am showing you here was taken after my second art session. This is what the class' Matisse cutout project generated! Each one is lovely but displayed as a group, to me they are colorful and glorious. A work of art! Matisse would have been thrilled to see his art form operationalized!

When I arrived at Mattie's school today, I had my hands full. This is not unusual, carrying bags and art supplies. Just carrying things from the parking lot to the classroom is a feat. I have done it numerous times before, without anyone helping me. But today was different. As I was doing the balancing act of bags, canvases, and even a vase filled with sunflowers (for the still life hands on project tomorrow), a young boy ran over to the school door to hold it open for me. When I walked through the door, I had to put the vase down because it was all too heavy. With that, the young fellow could have walked away, but he didn't. He offered to help me and he literally carried the flowers and vase all the way to the classroom. As he said to me..... "the vase with flowers is TOO heavy to carry with one hand!" On our walk, I learned that he is a fourth grader and thought my flowers were very pretty. He was adorable, and as I entered Donna's classroom, she clearly knew this fellow. Any case this fourth grader made an impression on me, because typically it has been my experience that most children do not offer to help me, hold open a door, or even stop what they are doing to observe the needs of another person.

Two weeks ago when I was at Mattie's school, Mattie's memorial tree was just beginning to bud after a long barren winter. Today the tree was all unfurled! It was happy, very green, and wearing all its ornaments with pride. The twinkling tree (as I call it because of all the wonderful trinkets and wind chime it has on it) is growing and stands tall watching over the playground. On a regular basis, I see children playing near or around the tree, and to them this is just an ordinary tree, whereas to me this tree is anything but ordinary! Instead it symbolizes the life of a courageous seven year old who lost his battle to cancer.

April 29, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2005. Our April tradition was to take Mattie to the National Arboretum to see the amazing azaleas in bloom. The arboretum in DC is down right incredible with azaleas for as far as the eye can see. They look electric and there is a beautiful trail that winds around these incredible bushes. Mattie always enjoyed the floral celebration in honor of his birthday. I had no idea that Peter snapped a photo of us that day, but I do recall holding that soft little hand like it were yesterday.

Quote of the day: One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today. ~ Dale Carnegie

Mattie Miracle had a very successful April Item drive. Almost all items are collected now. I only have one more major donation to pick up from our friend Toni (Brandon's mom). We are almost there! Today I picked up items in Bethesda, MD. The item drive has been far reaching across our area and that is a wonderful sight to see. While picking up items, I visited with my friend Evelyn and her 3 year old son, Sam. Sam and I relate to each other quite well. Sam is an active, bright, inquisitive, talkative, and engaging fellow. He LOVES to play with Legos and has no problem sitting down and including me in his play schemes. At one point, he had his arm in my lap while he was playing, which led me to believe he was comfortable in my presence. His imaginative play with Legos reminded me of Mattie. Mattie was quite a teacher. When I was pregnant with him I worried that I wouldn't know how to raise a boy. Of course once he was born, we learned together, and I quickly got with the program of cars, trains, things with wheels, playing with mud, sand, and other messy items! We evolved together and it is through this evolution, I have learned to interact with young children. In fact, my ages of comfort are newborn to age 7. However, after age 7, I am not as comfortable, most likely because I have no intimate or personal experience raising a child passed age seven. Donna, one of the kindergarten teachers at Mattie's school always tells me that I am a great educator of young children. That makes me laugh, since I have NO formal training educating kids! My only teacher was Mattie and apparently he taught me well!

This Wednesday is my last art session at Mattie's school. The third session is always very special. In this session, I basically talk with the children about the friendship and rivalry between Matisse and Picasso. They see PowerPoint slides of art work created by both artists side by side. These two legends painted similar objects and content, purposefully, to out do the other! Their rivalry may have actually inspired them to perfect their art form and style! In this third session we focus on the art form of still life. In fact, tomorrow afternoon, I will head into Donna's classroom to set up for Wednesday's lesson. I bring in a tablecloth, a vase filled with fresh sunflowers, and bananas in order to create a scene for the children to try to capture on their own canvas. Right now you should see the classroom! It is filled with ALL their art that has been created over the last three weeks. It is beautiful and once their still life paintings are done, there is no telling how colorful the classroom will become. One of the things the kids love about the third session is how I end it. Since they are painting fruit, I treat them to a buffet of fresh fruits with all sorts of dipping sauces. I bring in colorful plates, napkins, and forks and you should see them as they approach the buffet table of snacks! I love the ohs and ahs and watching them chat about their art and food experience. Mind you, I asked Donna to assess the class' top three fruit choices. So I know which fruits they will eat.... being prepared in my perspective is key with young children!!!

April 28, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006, on Easter. We took Mattie to his favorite restaurant for brunch. None of us expected a greeting from the Easter bunny. Mattie was most definitely not prepared for this and when this giant bunny came over to us to shake his hand, Mattie practically jumped in my lap!!! I will never forget this encounter, yet as soon as Mattie assessed the situation, he eventually calmed down and even interacted with the bunny! I never liked dressed up characters as a kid, my whole family can attest to this, but then again I have to say I am not crazy about them as an adult either.

Quote of the day: I guess when your heart gets broken you sort of start to see cracks in everything. I'm convinced that tragedy wants to harden us and our mission is never to let it. ~ Unknown

I never left our home today. Instead we worked on various projects and I have been trying to get rid of a horrible, horrible headache. Peter snapped some photos today of all the flowers that surround us. In our commons area is this glorious azalea. Blooming in April! As I would say to Mattie, "azaleas bloom in April to celebrate your birthday month."

To add color to our commons area, Peter planted tulip bulbs a couple of years ago. To me these are NO ordinary tulips, because they bloom a magnificent purple color. After a long winter, seeing Peter's tulips and daffodils (which are now past peak) are a wonderful greeting to spring.

A close up of one of these amazing purple numbers!

In addition to our garden of annuals, we have committed to developing a perennial garden as well. On the walls of our deck features our perennials!

More perennials! It seems to me that even the birds are happier now. They are out in our garden singing, flying by, stopping by, perching on plants, and truly calling us outside to stop and listen to them.