Kansas couple using ‘puppet passion’ to spread joy

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Hutchinson couple is putting their passion for storytelling and puppets to good use.

The story of Jim and Natalee Ganyon is far from ordinary. The two lived in the Southwest for decades, each pursuing a love of teaching and helping others.

Natalee was a preschool and kindergarten teacher in New Mexico. Jim, a United States Army Veteran, was a special education teacher and also worked for law enforcement in Nevada. The pair met online a couple of years ago. That’s when they realized they were a match made in puppet heaven.

“Our puppets have talked to each other through Skyping a lot. We Skyped through our puppets a lot,” laughed Natalee Ganyon.

Soon after meeting each other online, Jim and Natalee married and moved to Hutchinson. Next, the retirees decided to use their passion for puppets as a way to educate people and spread joy throughout the community. The pair now travels around the state storytelling to different groups including local YMCA’s, juveniles at the detention center and senior citizens.

“It’s a way of providing encouragement, joy, and as a certified teacher every time we do a puppet program, from adults to kids, you can get people to laugh and that’s the thing when you walk away from it, you say, I did a good thing,” said Jim Ganyon.

On Tuesday, the Ganyon’s put on a show for the residents at one of the Comfort Care Homes in Wichita. All of the residents at the home have Alzheimer’s or the early stages of the disease.

“They are kind of like tools that we can use to touch people’s lives,” Jim said.

“It’s very therapeutic to use a puppet,” Natalee said. “It’s a cognitive thing where they get their memory going again.”

The residents also get a kick out of the puppets.

“I thought those were so funny!” said resident Rita Mendal.

The Ganyon’s said, ultimately, storytelling through puppets is their way to give back to the community and help spread happiness throughout Kansas.

“In my career, I’ve seen too many bad things, I mean horrible things in law enforcement and the military. It’s a way of changing lives,” Jim said.

“That’s the reward, when you actually feel like you are making a deposit into someone’s life,” Natalee said.

Click here for more information about the Ganyon’s storytelling.

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