Katelyn Giliberti and Ben Clark
Customers of the month
The Real-Life Santas
We spend so much of this season thinking and talking about Giving. Giving gifts (of course), but also giving thanks and giving back to our community. As we thought about it more we realized that we’re thankful for those members of our community who spend all their time giving back - working tirelessly to give others the opportunity to live their best lives.
Our goal with this edition of “Customer of the Month” was to celebrate two outstanding members of our community, Ben Clark and Katelyn Giliberti: year-round, real-life Santas dedicated to doing the right thing for others and beating the odds.
Katelyn divides her time between a busy career as an attorney at a state agency and her “side-gig” as a yoga and fitness instructor. She’s passionate about justice and has dedicated herself to public service. Outside of her career, Katelyn is a proponent of all things health, wellness, and fitness. After discovering she had Thyroid Cancer, and going through treatment, she started looking for ways to give back and help others. These days, she works with The Julie Fund, an organization fighting cancer in three spaces: research, patient support, and education/advocacy. Katelyn helps plan events to benefit cancer patients, their families, and caregivers using yoga classes and workshops. Katelyn told us,
Yoga is a great way to bring people together and create a safe space to talk about the issues that affect women’s health, what patients undergoing treatment face, and how survivors can gain back their physical and mental health… I hope that I can add something positive to this foundation by using my experience as a patient combined with my skill as a yoga instructor.
Ben leads a nonprofit called Enroot Education, dedicated to pursuing equity for recently arrived immigrant students. They work with students during high school and college to create an inspiring vision for their futures here and develop the skills and networks necessary to achieve them.
Ben’s mission is to break down the barriers that impede immigrant students from becoming their best. Some of these, like racism, are the same systemic barriers that get in the way of success for all students of color. Others, like Islamaphobia, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and poorly-designed immigration policies, are layered on top and make it especially important that their communities rally to support them. Ben’s work pervades his day-to-day (and even keeps him up at night). He explains,
I wouldn’t say I’m exactly balancing everything but expressing gratitude often and cherishing the little moments each day with my kids and wife keep me positive.
These two are not circling the globe in a 24-hour sprint to deliver presents. Instead, they spread the joy in a never-ending marathon. Both Ben and Katelyn cite the convenience of their Ministry of Supply clothes as a life-saver for their busy schedules. According to Ben, “my days are intense and it definitely helps to wear clothes designed to keep me cool when things heat up. I also have two little kids and tons of cleanup to do at home each night - so NOT ironing is, well, incredible.”
How would you describe yourself in 10 words or less?
BC Fun-loving dad, dedicated to equity for immigrant students.
KM I am an energetic, empathic, driven, sometimes scatterbrained, kind woman. (10 words exactly.)
How do you take your coffee?
KM Iced, with cream & sugar.
BC Con leche.
Who are your influences/role models?
KM My parents and my brother. They set the example for me that hard work pays off. They have been such a support for me this past year. If people think that I showed strength through my treatment, it is undoubtedly because of my family.
BC For much of my life I’ve looked to the familiar freedom fighters for inspiration - Mahatma Gandhi, Susan B Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela. More recently I’ve been inspired by lesser-known individuals who are raising difficult conversations about racial justice today, like Bryan Stevenson, Robin DiAngelo, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m also inspired by my wife Clarissa Quintanilla, who always reminds me in her way that we can all give more, be better.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
KM I would have dinner with my Nana when she was my current age. She would have had two of three husbands and four of her six children by age 32.
BC Michelle, Barack, and my wife Clarissa (double date).
What’s one thing you wish you had more time for?
KM I wish had more time to spend with my dog, Dexter. I hate leaving him to go to work, or to go teach or take a yoga class. There really isn’t enough time in the day and he deserves to be loved every second of it.
Any Parting Thoughts?
BC I’ve been surprised and amazed by the power of children to instantly shake off the stink of a bad day with an unexpected hug, smile, or snuggle.
KM I’ve been surprised by the generosity of people who might not be directly affected by a cancer diagnosis or other tragedy. My friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and people who I don’t even know have donated their time, money, or both for various fundraising events I’ve participated in since my diagnosis. Going through treatment, sometimes I felt alone, or all I wanted to do was be “normal,” but to see people come together and want to give to something to benefit others really helped me cope with what I was going through and made me feel that my experience served a purpose.
If you would like to stay updated on all things yoga and events for The Julie Fund, follow Katelyn on Instagram @katelyngyoga. To donate to The Julie Fund, head to www.juliefund.org.
To learn more about Enroot and get involved with their mission to empower immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school experiences, visit www.enrooteducation.org.