Coffeyville Elementary School students gather around School Nurse Stephanie Neely-Dunlap, RN, BSN, and their new gaga ball pit.

CES nurse brings healthy activities to Coffeyville students, community 

School Nurse Stephanie Neely-Dunlap, RN, BSN, is encouraging exercise and play at her school district and in the Coffeyville community.  

Stephanie is a Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas nurse who works at Coffeyville Elementary School (CES). She recently received a $2,000 wellness grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield to purchase new physical education equipment: gaga ball pits. 

Gaga ball is a fast paced, high-energy sport played in an octagonal pit. The game — akin to a gentler version of dodgeball — is played with a soft foam ball, and combines the skills of dodging, striking, running, and jumping, while trying to hit opponents with a ball below the knees. Stephanie was able to gift a 20-foot and a 25-foot gaga ball pit with accessories to CES. 

The physical education teachers were thrilled and so were the children, Neely-Dunlap says.  

“Stephanie, known to us as ‘Nurse Stephanie’ has been a huge help to our PE program,” says Ford Hall III, CES PE teacher. “She is always willing to help! This year, without our knowledge, she applied for a grant for PE equipment. She was awarded the grant and suggested we use the money for Gaga Pits and balls. Gaga ball is a game we play with all our students, K-6 grade.” 

Since the gaga pits are portable, Ford says students can play in large group rooms for indoor recess, in the gym for PE class, at the Coffeyville stadium for field day — pretty much anywhere.  

The pits have come in useful during the recent Nado Fest, a special event at CES to share community resources. Stephanie, who happens to be on the Nado Fest committee, and her daughters set up the gaga ball pit during the event, giving the children something to play while the adults visited the event booths.  

As a part of the USD 445 Wellness Council at the Coffeyville Public School District, Stephanie is cochair of the council that applied for and received a $20,001 grant through the Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas, Healthy Pathways Kansas and Live Healthy Montgomery County. The goal of the Council is to encourage the community of Coffeyville to participate in healthier lifestyle activities.  

“She is also volunteering on several wellness committees that support our district,” CES Assistant Principal Julie Stukesbary says. “Her heart is not only passionate for wellness, but passionate for our staff, community, and students. The knowledge from her field of study brings a depth to our committees that is valuable and insightful. We are incredibly thankful for her offers.” 

The grant will help the district host a Color Blaze 5K Community-wide Fun Run. Also, the grant will provide 350 student scholarships to help pay their way into the event. Grant provided kits will include sunglasses, bracelets, stickers, color powder and a t-shirt to commemorate the event. Registration for the event is closed but people can cheer for the participants on April 27 at Veteran Memorial Stadium.  

The grant will also help provide new gym equipment for Field Kindley High School and water bottles for the district were also provided through the grant. The same grant also provided resources for additional dietary nutrition education in the classrooms.  

Another health-related event Stephanie donated to and volunteered for was the Kids Heart Challenge fundraiser through the American Heart Association. The students who raised the most in donations got to slime CES staff — including Stephanie.  

Stephanie hopes to inspire other school health staff to think outside the box about what they can do for students. A nurse for over 25 years, Stephanie has extensive experience working in emergency rooms, pediatrics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, rehabilitation centers but “out of all of those jobs, working with these children in a public health way, has been the most rewarding of my nursing career,” she says. “I feel like I can really make a difference.” 

School Nurse Stephanie Neely-Dunlap, RN, BSN, at the School Health booth during Nado Fest, a special event at CES to share community resources.
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