How a New Pittsburgh Show Focuses on the Well-Being of Children

Cai & Kate teaches families and children how to identify and discuss emotions in this Allegheny Health Network show.
Cai Kate


Being a kid isn’t always easy. You’re learning to be your own person, get along with others and experience big emotions that you don’t know how to process.

Allegheny Health Network has launched a YouTube show that helps families and children ages 3 to 6 identify these emotions and discuss them. Studies have shown that children and adolescents have been experiencing increases in rates of depression, anxiety and other behavioral issues since 2016.

Cai & Kate features Cai, a chameleon puppet whose color changes depending on his emotions and feelings, and Kate, Cai’s human friend who provides commentary on the various emotions portrayed in the show. Kate is played by Katlyn Kohne, a supervisor for AHN’s Chill Project team and a behavioral health specialist.

William Davies, founder and director of the AHN Chill Project, says the goal of the Chill Project is to help break down the stigma of mental health and teach families that emotional health is directly related to a person’s overall well-being.

“We have found since the pandemic ended, a lot of kids are behind socially and emotionally,” he adds. “For instance, fourth-graders were returning to school with the social and emotional capacity of first-graders. This is a fun and engaging way to catch up with skills that were lost and to help foster them through the rest of their lives.”

The show is funded by the A.J. and Sigismunda Palumbo Charitable Trust.

The premiere episode is the first in a series being produced by Chill Project Productions. Offered through AHN’s Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Institute and led by a team of behavioral health specialists, the Chill Project teaches evidenced-based coping techniques to equip students, teachers and parents with a standardized approach to managing stress, anxiety and other mental health concerns.

Davies says the Chill Project has been introduced into 31 Pittsburgh-area schools since its inception four years ago, with programs like Chill Rooms to help identify mental health needs of students. 

“Our mission is to step into the pathway of students who are suffering with mental health issues and redirect that,” he says. “The supports that are present in schools are antiquated and inadequate. We want kids to know that each of them is special and worthy. When we teach them how to learn and grow, those special qualities become the focus that can benefit them through the course of their lives.”

Cai & Kate highlights the importance of introducing coping skills that can help the children better understand how to identify and express their emotions, teach caregivers how to view emotions through the lens of their child and help mitigate  negative behavioral responses, such as throwing, hitting, biting and temper tantrums.

In the first episode, Kate explains: “All emotions are important to us because they let us and the world around us know how we feel,” adding we need to be detectives to figure out which emotion we are experiencing by paying attention to facial expressions and body language.

She teaches the audience in the nearly 10-minute episode to practice “bubble breathing” to mitigate feelings of anger — breathe in for 4 seconds and blow out into an imaginary bubble wand for 4 seconds, and repeat.

“Remember, use your skills and keep it chill,” she concludes.

Kohne is no stranger to the stage. She performed in theater, was the North Hills High School mascot and performed a cappella at Penn State University. 

“I’ve never been shy to perform on stage,” she notes. “This is an opportunity to combine that love of performing with my desire to help others.”

She notes the scripts come to her fairly easily because of her experience as a therapist, working with patients of all ages.

“Not only is it fun for me to watch the episodes, but I love watching kids respond to it,” she says. “I’ve had colleagues reach out to me because they showed it to kids who don’t usually engage and they were glued to it and practicing the skills.”

The designer behind Cai is renowned puppeteer Matt Acheson, whose work has appeared on Broadway.

“Cai is getting more updates as we move forward,” Kohne explains. “He is equipped with LED lights that have 250 different settings, including strobing. We take turns on changing his colors; it’s really fun. The whole show process is a collaboration.”

Davies wishes to thank the Palumbo Charitable Trust and Highmark for donating their video production studio space and crew to help produce each episode. 

“Pittsburgh has a rich history of producing high-quality, cutting edge children’s programming, and we are honored to be a part of that rich legacy in impacting children across the world,” he adds.

Episodes of Cai & Kate will be released once a month, and will be streamed in AHN pediatric waiting rooms, along with Cai & Kate shorts to help kids who may be nervous about seeing the doctor. Patients will also be given Cai & Kate activities such as coloring books while they wait.

“I hope that kids have fun with the show, but also take away language to make their lives better,” Kohne says. “I hope it will help them be able to talk to their friends, teachers and parents, and know what’s going on in their bodies to help save them lots of time and lots of stress.”

Watch the first episode ⇓

Categories: BeWell