Siblings raise funds to purchase a Wii for Benedictine Sisters
by Kara Hansen
Special to The Leaven
ATCHISON — It’s all the rage in nursing homes across the country.
From San Francisco to New York, the elderly and invalids are picking up Wii controllers and preparing to do battle.
And the Benedictine Sisters at Dooley Center in Atchison are no different, thanks to a few dedicated teenagers.
“Wii gaming systems are the hottest trend in long-term care facilities to get people up and active without having to say, ‘Let’s exercise,’” said Laurie Kloepper, activities director for Dooley Center. “I had been wanting one for a couple of years, but had no budget for it.”
Enter sisters Emily and Ali Stec, students at Maur HillMount Academy in Atchison. The Stec family has had a long relationship with the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica — and particularly Dooley Center, since the girls’ aunt, Barb Stec, is the administrator there.
Once the two heard the Sisters at Dooley Center would like a Wii, they sprang into action.
“I talked with them about it one day and I had an e-mail with a proposal from them early the next morning,” said Kloepper.
The proposal outlined h o w the Stec sisters planned to raise the funds for the Wii.
“We proposed earning the money by having a nonuniform day for $2 and holding a bake sale,” said Ali. “Other kids were thrilled to get involved and told me, ‘Oh my gosh, that sounds like fun.’”
Ali and Emily called their fundraising “Retired Benedictine Educators Day,” as most of the residents at Dooley Center are retired teachers who served in the community.
“We just wanted to give back to the Sisters with this awesome gift and wish them countless years of fun,” said Emily.
Along with fellow Maur Hill-Mount Academy students Von Huber and Jacob Hennigh, the Stecs arrived at Dooley Center to introduce the Wii to the Sisters on Sept. 13. Younger sisters Kylee and Zoey Stec helped their big sisters hook up the Wii to the television in Dooley Center, bringing with them all sorts of gadgets and controls.
Emily said she was happy with the response the Sisters exhibited to the Wii.
“This will be a form of physical therapy that will get them active and benefit them for many years to come,” she said. “I was surprised to see how many were willing to try and how much fun they had.”
Wheelchair-bound Sisters can use the Wii, as can Sisters with otherwise limited mobility, all with the wave of an arm — making it a very inclusive activity for the community.
“So far, the Sisters have been playing lots of bowling, but there are some who are interested in the tennis and golf, too,” said Kloepper. “It’s really fun to watch their faces when they play.”
Kloepper said the Wii is helpful for promoting physical fitness as well as cognitive abilities.
“There are a lot of positive aspects to the Wii for the Sisters, and it really helps keep that competitive spirit alive,” said Kloepper.
The communal nature of the Wii will also serve them well.
“It will build community while they get exercise,” said Ali.
Additionally, the Wii has already served as a way for the Sisters to build community with volunteers from Maur Hill-Mount Academy. Kloepper said students from Maur Hill-Mount Academy have been coming to Dooley Center every other week to play Wii games with the Sisters.
“To see the kind of intergenerational experience everyone was having was fantastic,” said Benedictine Sister Anne Shepard, prioress. “We are so grateful to this wonderful family and all the other students.”
Administrator Barb Stec agreed.
“The best part is that the staff, residents, and students are able to have positive and ongoing interaction one-on-one,” she said. “This will be something that young and old can do together.”
The staff is hoping to add additional activities, such as “brain fitness” games.
In the meantime, the Sisters are enjoying the activities as well as the interaction accompanying it.
“I liked the bowling, but I loved the children,” said Sister Mary Ethel Burley.
Additional reporting was provided by Sister Judith Sutera, OSB.