Dr. Jeni Stepanek (“Mama Peace”) is professionally recognized as a bestselling author, a well-respected educator and advocate and an award-winning inspirational speaker. However, she is most proud of her purpose as a memory curator, a peace cultivator and a “welcome mat” for local and global neighbors seeking to create change for themselves, for their communities and for our world. Jeni serves as a Senior Faculty Specialist at the University of Maryland (Department of Counseling, Higher and Special Education) and is the CEO & Chief Peace Officer of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation. In addition to being a board member for Main Street, she also volunteers in leadership and advisory capacities for the We Are Family Foundation, Children’s Hospice International and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Her specialty areas range from trauma and resiliency, low incidence disabilities and psychosocial care to hope, spirituality and community-building.
Well-known as “Mattie’s mom” – Jeni is the parent of the late teen poet and Heartsongs peace ambassador Mattie Stepanek – she has three other amazing children who also died young due to neuromuscular disease, a rare genetic condition she unknowingly passed on and was diagnosed with later as an adult. Despite the impact of neuromuscular disease, cancer treatments and reliance on a wheelchair and ventilator, she celebrates life every day and works and plays with choice, intention and gratitude. When she grows up, Jeni wants to be “83 and a beach chair philosopher”.