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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Katie Clark, host of “Coffee with Katie,” interviews Chris Myers, Hallmark Home Mortgage digital media manager, as GiGi's Playhouse Executive Director Holly Tonak records for a YouTube post last month. 

  • Clark's five-minute weekly shows are usually posted on YouTube at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Host of Coffee with Katie, Katie Clark, right interviewing Hallmark Home Mortgage digital media manager Chris Myers during a recording of her show at GiGi's Playhouse on N. Clinton St. on Tuesday 12.11.18  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Host of Coffee with Katie, Katie Clark, right interviewing Hallmark Home Mortgage digital media manager Chris Myers during a recording of her show at GiGi's Playhouse on N. Clinton St. on Tuesday 12.11.18  

Thursday, January 10, 2019 1:00 am

Talk show has its perks

GiGi's Playhouse participant hosts weekly online show

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

Katie Clark is the best kind of interviewer. She makes sure her subjects are comfortable and relaxed and offers them coffee.

So far no one has turned down the chance to talk to her. That includes politicians, media members (including this author) and business leaders.

Clark, 24, hosts “Coffee with Katie,” a five-minute weekly interview session. The shows usually air at 3 p.m. Tuesday on YouTube and on the Facebook page of GiGi's Playhouse, which specializes in providing free educational and therapeutic programs for people with Down syndrome, such as Clark.

Clark has helped the organization gain some recognition.

“I was just doing it because the little snippet videos I was doing with our adults to promote a program or an event were getting a lot of random hits and traffic to our Facebook page,” GiGi's Playhouse Executive Director Holly Tonak says. “Katie and I were just drinking coffee, and I thought let's do 'Coffee with Katie' because I love alliteration. That first show got over 1,000 views.”

Among those Clark has interviewed are Mayor Tom Henry, Tracey Barr from Shepherd's House, Utopian Coffee's Nick Brehany and Jenny Snyder from AWS Foundation. In a recent interview, she quizzed Hallmark Home Mortgage digital media manager Chris Myers. He was asked about the favorite part of his job, how he came to know about GiGi's and what someone should know about making videos.

A chat with GiGi's participant Jackson Boardman and his father, Storm, has more than 4,000 views.

“I love my audience, and it's really good,” Clark says with a beaming smile.

Besides being recognized in public, Clark also loves dressing up for the show and thinking of questions. But her primary love is coffee, especially with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. She can make her one cup last, carrying it around most of the day.

In addition to enjoying music, including singing along to Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan, Clark loves fashion and having her nails painted. She'll eat anything taco, especially pizza. She's been attending GiGi's Playhouse for two years.

Her ultimate goals are to interview Bryan and WOWO host Pat Miller.

She recently visited PUNCH Films to talk about a potential podcast and couldn't believe it when she saw herself on a monitor.

“It's been one of my favorite parts of being here almost three years,” Tonak says. “Seeing her reaction to a dream coming to fruition will always stay with me. She had to take a moment and compose herself.”

The show idea started at Tonak's suggestion, but almost immediately Clark took ownership of it, making sure everything is set up and prepared as 3 p.m. approaches on Tuesdays. She even designed the coffee mug she gives to guests each week.

“I never want people to think we're using her for marketing purposes, but this is authentic, this is her passion and we're just giving her the opportunity,” Tonak says. “I have so many dreams for my friends here, and I just want to make the world an amazing place. My goal in life is to help the community see my friends as I see them, full of all of this ability and untapped potential.”

Part of that means providing opportunities for people with Down syndrome that includes GiGi's Genesis Health Bar at the Playhouse, 6081 N. Clinton St.

Open weekdays, the shop serves salads, wraps, smoothies, bottled drinks, specialty breakfasts and, of course, coffee, which Clark can talk almost anyone into having a cup of.

She also helps with making smoothies, food prep, cleaning, greeting guests and running the cash register. The cafe has been open several weeks, hosting at least 100 guests each week.

Under the direction of manager Teya Lahr, the shop will be operated by Playhouse participants 18 and older who have graduated from GiGi University, part of the group's career development program. The focus will be on developing career skills, health and wellness, technology, literacy and career exploration opportunities.

The idea started last January and was pushed ahead thanks to donations from Ambassador Enterprises SEED challenge, AWS Foundation and the McMillen Foundation.