Jerry Mika may be the exception to the two old sayings that "No good deed goes unpunished," and "Nice guys finish last."
Mika made local headlines this past November when he returned a $2.2 million check he had received by mistake from the Utah Department of Finance. The mishap occurred when the amount of the check he was to receive for a refund of his real-estate license was mistakenly input using the seven-digit receipt number on the check, rather than the correct amount of $15.
Since then, Mika has been on a whirlwind tour that recently included a guest appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
"Her folks caught the story and called me to ask if I would come out to L.A. and be on the show," Mika said Monday.
The experience gave him a chance to discuss the work he is doing with the "Super Sherpas" from his home base in Draper, all of which impressed DeGeneres enough that she offered Mika a special reward for his noble efforts.
"Ellen hooked me up with a trip to Waikiki," Mika said. "I'm off in a couple of weeks to go to Waikiki."
He said he was floored by the weeklong, all-expenses paid Hawaii trip, and he gets to take a friend along. He said DeGeneres told him she was rewarding him "for being honest."
In addition to the trip, Mika was also recognized by the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association with the first "Shining World Honesty Award," in recognition of his "exceptional example of truthfulness and integrity, noble sense of civic duty and enlightened leadership and moral goodness creating a brighter future for humanity."
The organization, headed by a spiritualist whose name it bears, recognizes people who do good around the world. Other notable award recipients include Al Gore, Angelina Jolie and Mika's housemate and friend, Apa Sherpa.
"It's a beautiful award," Mika said. "It's crystal with rubies, and they gave me a check for $500."
Mika has also been the subject of a feature on CNN. He said that since his story went national, he has received 8,000 hits to his Web site, www.supersherpas.com, and another 150 e-mails lauding his honesty.
"A lady sent me a Christmas card with a check for $100 that said, 'To an honest man,"' he said.
Mika laughingly added that he used the money to buy groceries for the Sherpas. He has spent the last year working to help his friends with their endeavors. Last spring, he was co-manager of base camp for the record all-Sherpa ascent of Nepal's Mount Everest.
Mika even mortgaged his house to help the Sherpas open a retail store called Karma Outdoor Clothing in Salt Lake City to sell outdoor trekking gear, but the brick-and-mortar store recently closed. He now is helping to build their online retail outlet.
He said he hopes his experience in business, sales and marketing will make him an attractive candidate for some job."I took one year off to help these (Sherpa) families put together their program," Mika said. "I've got everybody else jobs, but now I've got to get one for myself."