Kelly Heinritz from Wisonsin tells us how she uses animal puppets to bring joy and fun to people in retirement homes and provides interesting animal facts and stories.
We recently got to know Kelly when she had contacted us about purchasing a Tasmanian Devil hand puppet. She explained that she had been going to retirement homes to entertain and educate its residents about animals in different countries, and she had always wanted a Tasmanian Devil for her Australian – themed show. She finally found on our website that she really loved.
“It all started when I planned a baby shower for my pregnant daughter, and we organised a Noah’s Ark themed party with different animals for each of the 7 tables. At each table, the plates, cups, napkins, lights, and decorations matched that animal. I talked to our adult friends about each of the animals - horse, bat, alpaca, chicken, butterfly, honeybee and peacock – which all lived with us on our small farm. My daughter ended up with one animal puppet for each table.”
With her first set of puppets and some advice and guidance from her mother, Kelly started taking the animal puppets to a nearby retirement home. She kept the talks light and fun-filled, describing life on the farm and her many beautiful experiences with these animals. A while later, when her local church had a jungle-themed holiday week for its younger members, she asked if she could visit for 10mins each day, bring a different animal puppet and talk about the wonders of that animal.
“My retirement home talks morphed from there. I now have four themed programs: Farm, Woodland, Africa, and Australia. (When I was young, Australia was my favourite place with its interesting animals. Our zoo in Milwaukee only had kangaroos, wallabies and emus in its Australian area. When I was in high school it finally got its first koala.) I am working on five other themes now: Ocean, Arctic, Asia, South America and North America.”
“I take 6-12 animal puppets that I have researched and tell interesting facts about each animal: diet, weight, habitat, behaviour, conservation status, etc... I always invite people to ask lots of questions. I take a tape measure and have the audience help me show the size of the animal or the length of their leap. I have even had them try out the gorilla ritualised attack. It is something different than Bingo or the music programs in retirement homes, and lots of people love animals. I hope it gives people an appreciation for the way animals are all different and truly amazing.”
“I also hope it shows people that many of these animals may not be with us for much longer. I sure would like them to be around when my grandchildren are older. Having people learn more about these animals may encourage others to protect and preserve them.”
After talking to Kelly and looking at some her stories, we discovered that on occasion, she even takes live animals to retirement homes. It adds another dimension to these visits and allows people to touch, feel and interact with smaller domesticated animals.
“Regarding the animals (puppets), I don’t have access to all these animals to take them around for talks, nor would it be safe for many of them (both residents and animals). In my experience, puppets still give people an idea of animals they may have never seen before.”
“I hope to take my puppet shows to summer children’s programs next year, and possibly a near-by children’s hospital. I hope my story will encourage other people in Australia, the USA, and other places to use puppets to share the amazing world of animals. Thanks so much for your amazing puppets. I am so glad I have a Tasmanian devil puppet now.”
Kelly Heinritz lives in Wisconsin, USA, runs a community service called “Puppet Tales” and visits retirement homes and similar places to talk to people about animals and their fascinating stories.