TWIN FALLS — In the dark and through pouring rain, Luke Mickelson backed his truck and trailer up the driveway. Television celebrity Mike Rowe sat in the seat next to him.
This was far beyond what Mickelson, a Kimberly resident, had expected when he’d accepted that interview back in October — at the time, he’d been led to believe it was for a magazine’s web series. But in November, the Sleep in Heavenly Peace chief administrations officer got a visit from a full film crew and Rowe himself, right here in Twin Falls.
On Monday, the local nonprofit will be featured on the second season of “Returning the Favor,” a Facebook series hosted by Rowe. The actor is best known for his work on the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”
But the best part is yet to be revealed — a special gift Rowe presented Sleep in Heavenly Peace; his way of returning the favor. Sleep in Heavenly Peace builds and delivers beds and bedding to children in southern Idaho who have none.
“This is such a game-changer for Sleep in Heavenly Peace,” said Scott Butler, president of the Twin Falls chapter. “It would blow your mind, the need in Twin Falls.”
The inside man
Butler and Mickelson have known each other a long time. They grew up in Kimberly together, graduated high school together, and in May 2017, Butler agreed to head up the local chapter of his friend’s nonprofit.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace originated as a youth group project in Mickelson’s basement in 2012. But it wasn’t long before people stepped up to help, and the nonprofit was established. It now has more than a dozen chapters in the U.S., with plans to go international.
The adventure in Twin Falls last year started with a phone call.
“I had a really weird, kinda probing phone call asking what we do at SHP,” Butler said.
He later learned that Sleep in Heavenly Peace was being considered for the Facebook series, and he became the show’s insider.
When Mickelson got his interview the next month, he thought it was kind of strange, and he brought it up to his friend.
“I said, ‘Hey dude, there’s something big, but I can’t tell you,” Butler recalled.
Mickelson was being led to believe that an online magazine wanted to come out and feature his nonprofit for a web series. The magazine was based in New York.
“I was totally clueless,” Mickelson said.
Keeping it secret
As the dates for filming drew near, Butler told Mickelson he would need to take off three days of work. But his employer at the time wouldn’t let him.
“I quit my 18-year-old job, and I get no response from anybody,” Mickelson said.
Butler was still trying to keep his friend in the dark, but he felt bad. Mickelson had chosen to devote his life to his nonprofit, and he had no assurance of what would happen next.
“I just told him, ‘Don’t ask questions. People are not going to answer your questions. Just relax and it’ll be OK,’” Butler recalled.
Producers arrived at the same time Sleep in Heavenly Peace was hosting a training for all its chapter presidents.
“It was pretty much a cover-up to keep Luke off the scent,” Butler said.
The presidents were actually there for the show, but as more people got in on the secret, “we pretty much got put on a gag order,” he said.
When Rowe showed up and tapped on Mickelson’s shoulder during a build activity, Mickelson announced the celebrity’s presence to everyone.
But of course, they already knew.
“All of ‘em had these new T-shirts,” he said.
Rowe went with Mickelson the rainy night they made a delivery to one of the homes receiving a bed. The Twin Falls chapter receives about 10 applications a week for single beds or bunkbeds, Butler said.
Inside the home, Rowe saw the children had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Mickelson said he later expressed surprise, but most recipients don’t even have that much — just a pile of clothes or blankets on the floor.
Meanwhile, Butler coordinated all past recipients, volunteers, family members and friends that he could find to get together for a big reveal the next day. More than 300 people showed up to see Rowe “return the favor” and gift the nonprofit with something that will significantly impact operations moving forward.
That donation will be revealed Monday night, when the episode goes live on Facebook, kicking off the show’s second season. You can find episodes of “Returning the Favor” at facebook.com/ReturningTheFavor.
Mickelson doesn’t know exactly when the show will go up, but he estimates it’ll be around 10 p.m. Sleep in Heavenly Peace will host a reveal party and showing at 456 Madrin St. The event starts at 9:45 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend.