Man honored after quitting job to build bunk beds for thousands of kids
IDAHO FALLS — It was 2012, and Luke Mickelson was looking for a service project that he could do with young men from his Latter-Day Saint congregation in Twin Falls.
“We learned that there was a family in the community that had kids sleeping on the floor,” Mickelson recalls. “I thought, ‘What better way to teach these boys how to work hard than by making a bed?’ and so that’s what we ended up doing.”
The boys gathered in the Mickelson’s garage one evening and built the bunk bed in a few hours. It was dropped off, and the service project was finished, but Mickelson wasn’t.
He and his wife, Heidi, decided to build another bunk with their children for a needy family at Christmastime.
“We had some leftover wood, and we knew how to do it at that point. It took about three to four nights, but as a family, we built a second bunk bed,” Mickelson says.
And another. And another. In fact, the Mickelsons built 11 beds within a year and posted about their projects on Facebook.
Soon people were dropping off mattresses, sheets and pillows to give away with the bunks, and friends in Boise started building beds for kids in their community.
“Then it was just every year,” Mickelson tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We built 25 the second year, 51 the next year, 77 the year after that and then, around 2016, we thought, ‘What would happen if we started building them through the year?'”
Word spread about the project, and Sleep in Heavenly Peace was born. Chapters began popping up across the country where group members solicit sponsorships, donations and volunteers. Building days are then held, when the beds are assembled and delivered in their communities.
“We have corporations that are looking for ways for their employees to come together as well as show their appreciation for the communities they live in to give back to,” Mickelson says.
As Sleep in Heavenly Peace grew, Luke reached a turning point in October 2017.
“I was very blessed to have a wife that understood what my passion was and had a very similar passion,” Mickelson recalls. “I said to her, ‘I don’t know what to do here. I’ve either got to quit my job, or I’ve got to really stop or slow down this Sleep in Heavenly Peace growth.’ It just wasn’t a question. We knew what we were going to do.”
He resigned from his full-time job, and the Mickelsons put their all in providing beds for kids.
Two weeks later, Mike Rowe showed up in Twin Falls and surprised the couple with a large warehouse on his Returning the Favor show.
“The show paid for four years’ worth of rent, with the total value being $120,000,” Mickelson says. “It was amazing.”
There are now around 160 chapters in 40 states, and Sleep in Heavenly Peace recently launched a disaster relief program.
“The funds go and help those chapter presidents near where disasters have happened, and we hope to fund bunkbed builds and get those specific families, those kids, into beds in that area,” says Disaster Relief Committee Chair Nancie Mathews.
Since 2012, Sleep in Heavenly Peace has built around 5,000 bunk beds, but this year, the goal is the assemble 10,000 beds – giving 20,000 kids a place to sleep.
“In five years, I see us in multiple countries across the globe and helping over 100,000 kids a year,” Mickelson says.
Mickelson was honored by the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho this month as one of 11 East Idaho Real Heroes. His mission statement is ‘No Kid Sleeps on the Floor in Our Town,’ and he says all it takes is one bed and one visit to a child to change your life.
“I’ll always remember the first time I dropped off a bed,” Mickelson says. “We walked into this room that this little girl was sharing with her sister, and there was no furniture. They had a little section of toys, but in the corner was all her wadded-up clothes. And that’s what she slept on. So her routine was she’d wake up, she’d take her pajamas off, put on her school clothes and when school was over, take her school clothes off, put her pajamas on and sleep on her school clothes. I don’t know about you, but when you see something like that, it changes you. No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”