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Helping Kids Get a Good Night’s Sleep

An estimated 2-3% of children nationwide don’t have a bed to sleep in. 

In the winter of 2012, Luke Mickelson learned from a fellow church member about a child who didn’t have a bed. Mickelson, who lives in Idaho, had little experience with woodworking. But he used his daughter’s bunk bed as a guide to build a bed for the child. With the leftover wood, he and his family built and distributed beds to other children in need in their community.

Mickelson learned that an estimated 2-3% of children nationwide don’t have a bed to sleep in. “This struck a chord with me,” he said in a recent interview via Zoom. “To think that I could solve the problem of kids sleeping on the floor meant the world.”

Mickelson realized that he had an important mission to fulfill. He got help from his childhood friend, Jordan Allen. An idea that started in Mickelson’s garage has since become a national initiative known as Sleep in Heavenly Peace. To date, the nonprofit organization has helped more than 140,000 families. 

The group’s goal is to to ensure that no child sleeps on the floor. “For children to do well in school and have behavioral stability, they need a good night’s sleep,” Allen told me by phone. “In a way, every delivery feels the same as that first delivery.”

An online application gives families a chance to get a bed for their child. When they plug words into their search engine explaining their situation, the nonprofit’s website pops up. At the Phoenix chapter alone, there were 50 people on the waiting list three years ago. Now, there are about 3,000.


Zoya in the Phoenix chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace with Joe Genovese, the chapter’s president 


The organization has come a long way since it started. Today, 326 “chapters” are located in the United States and three other countries. A 2018 reality TV show about the nonprofit, Returning the Favor, drew additional attention to Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Many people decided to volunteer or open up chapters in their areas.

The chapters host workshops, and community members build about 100 beds in the span of four hours. Materials used during the builds are financed entirely by donors.  

“It brings people together in a very unique and powerful way,” Allen said. Recipients of a bed are encouraged to help build it before it’s assembled in their home. This includes kids ages 3 to 17.

I recently had a chance to tour the Phoenix chapter and interview the president, Joe Genovese. “You meet some really joyful kids,” Genovese said. “I want them to have the memory of not only that I finally have a bed of my own, but I helped build it.” Genovese is involved in the organization because he wants to give back to his community, he said.

Seeing their mission fulfilled has been a rewarding experience for Mickelson and Allen. However, it hasn’t come without effort. “I gave up my good-paying job and took a leap of faith to follow my passion,” Mickelson said.

The effort was worth it, Allen said. “If more people understood that you have to go out there and take initiative yourself,” he added, “we would have fewer problems in the world.”



Top photo courtesy of Sleep in Heavenly Peace; bottom photo courtesy of the author