A Godley teen who was once legally blind now uses her motivational story to inspire her peers across the state.
Matti Rooks, 16, began speaking in public about two years across the Dallas/Fort Worth area and central Texas. She visits youth groups, high schools, junior high schools and church assemblies to speak about drug use and abuse, bullying and her personal story.
She was born with Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia Cleft Syndrome, also known as EEC syndrome, an unusual genetic disorder that left her with a cleft palate, cleft lip, few teeth, missing fingers and toes. She was also hearing impaired and born without tear ducts or sweat glands.
But when Matti Rooks turned 14, her eyesight restored itself.
She was abused at home for about six years until she and her brother entered foster care when she was 11 years old. The Rooks family adopted her when she was 14.
In the last two years, her adoptive mother, Patti Rooks, said she has been using her story to inspire others.
“She’s been speaking at churches and youth groups,” Patti Rooks said. “She spoke at some womens’ groups and different churches, and then she recently spoke at a youth group over in Mesquite, and the youth minister there was having lunch with Kyle Embry, who was at Youth Alive in Waxahachie. He told him about Matti, and he asked where she went to college. He said she’s a high school student, and once he said that, he tracked us down.”
Embry, who helps run Seven at Schools, reached out to the Rooks family and took Matti to Marble Falls to do three assemblies and a night service. She spoke to more than 2,000 students.
Seven at Schools is a multimedia event for schools in America, according to its official website. The organization hosts assemblies, and school administrators choose the topics for the assembly. Program materials are professionally produced, and include multimedia screens. The events cover abstinence, drug and alcohol abuse, peer pressure, scholastic achievement and self-esteem issues. Matti filmed a professional video for the organization to use.
“We told them about how Matti’s mother was addicted to drugs and did drugs the entire time she was pregnant with her. She shared that with them, of how her mom didn’t think of the consequences and how she was born with all these disabilities. She also spoke about what it was like being bullied through school,” Patti Rooks said. “It’s a great testimony of how a local child has turned her disability around to reach out to others.”
Patti Rooks said her daughter is positive about everything and always says everything will be OK, no matter what.
At her assemblies, Matti Rooks speaks about being kind to others, because you never know what they may be dealing with.
“When I was 5, my mother met a man who abused me for six and a half years. He mentally abused me, physically abused me and sexually abused me,” Matti Rooks said. “I was bullied at home, he would call me names and everything else. School was the only safe place I had.”
But at school, she would be bullied as well.
“At school, people would bully me about my hands, my feet, and they would throw stuff and trip me every day,” Matti Rooks said. “You never know what someone is dealing with at home. Just because they go to school, they might look different, or be in a wheelchair. Their life may be different than yours.”
She recently spoke at four assemblies on Oct. 22 at Walnut Grove Middle School in Midlothian for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month.
National Adoption Month in Johnson County
To celebrate November’s National Adoption Month, the Rooks family will adopt its 13th child, Patti Rooks said. The Rooks have fostered more than 30 children in more than 20 years. Patti Rooks runs Small Blessings Ministry, which helps find Christian families to become licensed and trained successful foster and adoptive families. The ministry will host a support group for adoptive families at 6 p.m. on Nov. 13 at Victory Family Church in Burleson.
“We wouldn’t be able to do for 12 kids what we’ve been able to do without the help of the community,” Patti Rooks said.
Patti Rooks said there’s a great need for foster and adoptive homes in Johnson County. In 2011, 83 percent of Johnson County foster children had to be placed in homes outside of the county because of a shortage.
Johnson County will host a foster care and adoption expo for National Adoption Month, including an informational meeting and panel discussion at 9 a.m. Nov. 17 at Field Street Baptist Church in Cleburne. For more information, contact Tammy King, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County, at email@example.com.