Every person has a story, but host Todd Hansen, producers and technicians from the television program, “The Story Trek” only sought one tale when they visited Gardner last week.
They landed in this community by accident with the goal of finding one person willing to tell their story to television cameras.
Hansen said in order to find a community, one of Hansen’s daughters draws one of the 50 states from a hat. When she chose Kansas, they dropped a marker to determine in which Kansas town they would start their search for a story.
“It’s a powerful show about just ordinary people, but there’s no such thing as ordinary,” Hansen said.
Selecting a state and a town is just the start of their trek. Once in town, they focus on randomly selecting a story teller’s house.
“We’ll pick someone to spin with a spinner , and the spin will decide the direction, and then we’ll have them count their keys to pick a house,” Hansen said.
In Gardner, the production crew stopped a UPS driver on east Main Street. The driver spun the game-board type spinner directing the crew to head four blocks to the south and two blocks to the west.
Now in its seventh season, the Story Trek production crew then travels door-to-door seeking a random story teller.
The goal is to find one person willing to tell their story to the world.
“Every story is worthy to put on the show,” Hansen said.
Sometimes finding a person to tell it is tricky.
“Seventy-five percent of the people think we’re the sweepstakes,” Hansen said.
And many people slam the door in their faces.
“If you’re in a really dark place in your life, you might think when a TV camera shows up it means bad things,” Hansen said.
In the midwest and the south, Hansen said it’s typically a little easier to find someone willing to talk to the cameras.
“The further you are towards the coasts, it gets more challenging,” Hansen said. “In the northeast, knocking on doors is tough.”
Every story they’ve done is Hansen’s favorite. While they were in the Kansas City area, they interviewed a 17 year old in Shawnee in addition to a Gardner couple. The production crew asks news organizations not to share the details of their particular story. For that, people will have to watch the broadcast, however Hansen reminisced about some of the most memorable stories they covered in earlier seasons.
In Idaho, the crew met a woman who was ready to tell her story.
“We rolled up and she just started telling us about this battle with this horrible disease,” Hansen recalled.
Three days before the cameras arrived at her Idaho home, she said she had a dream that a television crew would stop by and she would have a chance to share her story.
The woman used to have seizures that lasted up to six hours, and doctors diagnosed her with all kinds of things.
“She thought she was going to die,” Hansen said.
She told the crew that she tried and tried to find answers and one day, a woman came up to her and handed her a DVD. “It was a documentary on chronic Lyme disease,” Hansen said.
She learned that one of the best clinics to treat Lyme disease was located 20 minutes away from her home.
“Through it all, she had these spiritual battles with the Lord,” Hansen said. “Her hope was that she would be able to help other people one day… It was just a really powerful medical story.”
Hansen also fondly remembers interviewing Concha Server, his oldest interview subject to date. She was 97 years-old when she sat down with Hansen and told the story of coming to America from Spain through Ellis Island.
Hansen planned to attend her 100th birthday celebration, but she died a week shy of the party.
Sometimes, it’s not quite so easy to draw a story out of a source.
“I’ll be an hour into an interview, and I’ll wonder what on earth I’m going to do a story on,” Hansen said.
But then they’ll mention that one thing, and Hansen is captured by the story that needs to be told.
“I’m still blown away by the things people will tell me,” he said. “This is fun, seeing these places that you’d otherwise never visit, and to meet these people and to connect with them on such a personal level.”
The story of one Gardner resident is tentatively scheduled to be broadcast in October on “The Story Trek with Todd Hansen” on BYU TV. The show appears on DISH Network channel 9403, and Direct TV channel 374.