If you don’t already know Jack Mitchell, you’ll get your chance Friday.
Just look for the sweaty man in the purple football jersey and moisture-wicking gym shorts making a loop through Lincoln, a goofy hat on his head, walking, walking, walking.
Jack Mitchell is a KLIN radio host, a friendly, funny voice on your morning commute. He’s a Husker sports nut, a dad, a Royals fan, an East High graduate, a once-upon-a-time attorney who has a thing for the weather.
His real name is John Liesveld and he’s as genuine as George Washington on a dollar bill.
Friday, he’s walking a marathon plus change.
He calls it the Walk of Shame and it’s not the first time he’s embarked on a stroll around the city in the name of doing good.
I walked with him on a mid-May Friday three years ago, a small piece of a 20-mile route that ended at a brewery. That year he walked to raise money for a small-town wrestler named Doyle Trout who’d lost his leg in a car accident.
He wore a Husker Power hat with yellow arms that rose like horns above his head.
Drivers honked their car horns and radio listeners ran out to meet the voice they loved.
His parents, Curt and Rosanne Liesveld, were waiting in front of Memorial Stadium to root him to the finish line. Mitchell stopped for a photo.
The next day, his dad died. A heart attack in the middle of mowing.
This is the first walk since then, and Mitchell is raising money for Mourning Hope. Nearly $2,000 in donations have already been pledged to the organization that helps grieving children.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find a cause that personally resonates,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “The walk had such a connection to a bad time, that I’d thought I’d use it to completely flip it on its head.”
Mitchell cooked up the first walk after the endless winter of 2013, assuring listeners that spring had indeed arrived and guaranteeing the high temperature wouldn’t dip below 60 degrees on any day until football season.
If it did, he’d put on his pedometer and go.
On May 20, 2018, the thermometer didn’t make it past 58.
And Mitchell kept his weather promise for the fourth time.
“I was in South Africa and I got this random email from him,” says Carly Runestad, Mourning Hope’s executive director. “He said, ‘I’m doing this Walk of Shame, can we meet?’”
When she returned home, Runestad showed up on Mitchell’s morning show to talk about the services Mourning Hope offers. The KLIN website set up a donation link.
Mitchell offered his own expertise in exchange for donations. (He’ll have his face painted at the Lincoln Children’s Museum, circle a Sheridan Boulevard roundabout holding an “I Love Roundabouts” sign, pose with staff at Bryan East Campus, take random requests along the route.)
The radio guy and a Twitter friend have already mowed the lawns of two followers in exchange for their $200 donation.
“They made us wings and we brought beer.”
The walk is such a Jack Mitchell thing to do, his friends say.
“There’s a certain genuine boyishness about him,” Mike Schaefer said. “He has a kind of manic energy … his brain is always thinking.”
He’s a force of personality with a generous spirit, said the writer for Husker 24/7. And despite the 100-degree forecast: “I’ll walk with him at some point.”
Bret Welstead plans to stroll a piece of those 25 miles with Mitchell, too.
“He sees the value of community and what people can do if they come together,” said the pastor at New Covenant Community Church and friend of the Liesveld family. “I wasn’t surprised at all that he turned to Mourning Hope.”
Runestad is happy he did. And she and fellow Mourning Hope employees will be waiting in their walking shoes to join Mitchell in the final 7-mile stretch.
Some Mourning Hope families will be at the state Capitol to walk the last mile to the Railyard; others will cheer along the route, handing the morning host bottles of water.
And Mitchell has a cadre of friends signed up to join him. Guests on his show such as Rusty Dawkins and Leirion Gaylor Baird, Coby Mach, Nancy Metcalf, Brenden Stai, Suzanne Geist.
In his email pitch for walking buddies, Mitchell touted the good work of Mourning Hope: “I know how hard the last three years have been for me, and I'm 40. I can't imagine if I'd been 10.”
The first year — 2013 — Mitchell walked 13 miles raising money for the Lincoln Community Foundation. (“I think they just gave it to a variety of causes. We were very disorganized.”)
The next year, money from another 13-mile walk went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. And then 2015, the year he lost his dad.
He dropped the challenge in 2016 and the next year, too, Mitchell says.
His heart wasn’t in it.
But this year. …
This year, look for Jack Mitchell, Lincoln. Watch him walk out of Broadcast House and past the Sunken Gardens and over to KLKN and up Pioneers Boulevard and down Sheridan Boulevard and east to Runza on O Street and over to East Campus and down to Memorial Stadium and on to the Capitol and into the Railyard.
“He’s going to be miserably tired,” Runestad said. “He’ll be hurting by the end of the day.”
My guess: Hurting but happy.
On a Father’s Day three years ago, I wrote about Jack Mitchell and his walk and his dad who he loved so much.
Mitchell talked then about one of the last times he saw his father — celebrating the Walk of Shame over a beer at the end of a long Friday.
“It was a very celebratory feeling. He thought this walk was one of the very best things I did.”
He was right.