Chairman: Patrick S. Feely
Pat Feely was Chairman of the Toy Industry Foundation at its founding in 2002 until 2004 and became chairman again in 2010. He has been on the board each year since the start of the Foundation. He also has been active with the Toy Industry Association for many years having served as its Chairman from 2000 to 2002 after two terms as a Director and as an Advisor from 2002 to 2008.
Since his retirement from Radica Games, Ltd. in 2006, Mr. Feely has been advising toy and other children’s businesses and is currently a director of Playrific. He is also a member of the Pasadena Angels (investors in early stage companies).
A 35-year veteran of the toy and game industry, Mr. Feely was President and CEO of Radica Games, Ltd. from 1999 until 2006 when Mattel, Inc. acquired Radica. During his career he was CEO of Spectrum HoloByte, President of Bandai America and President of the Tonka Toys Division of Tonka, Inc. He began his career in the toy industry in marketing at Mattel Toys in 1977 having previously work at RCA Corporation in new business development. He has a BA in Psychology from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
Ellen "Ellie" Block
Ellen "Ellie" Block is
President of Nonsense, Inc., a gift, accessories and art consultant
Ellie is a Tufts University graduate and registered occupational
therapist who worked professionally at the Illinois State Psychiatric
Institute and the Chicago Institute of Rehabilitation. While her
philanthropic interests range from art to urban issues to community
development, her abiding passion is for children.
She joined the Toy Industry Foundation Board in 2005 and chairs it's
Grant Committee. She has offered her leadership to a variety of
organizations , with posts past and present including: Chairman of the
Hasbro Children's Foundation, which focused on improving the quality of
life for children, vice president of the Board of the National Lekotek
Association, a group dedicated to using play to improve the lives of
disabled children and help integrate them into mainstream life; Serving
on diverse boards Taylor Institute Think Tank on Urban
Issues, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee where she has
chaired the International Development Program Committee for
Disaster Relief was a Vice Chair of Meyers Brookdale Institute and
Chaired the Children's Initiative Committee. She is Chair of Board of
Overseers Tufts University- Friedman School of Nutrition. She also
serves as an Overseer at the Heller School for Social Policy and
Management at Brandeis University.
Ellen is a Trustee of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health
System and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the September 11
In 2000, Ms. Block was named on of " 100 Women Making a Difference"
by Today's Chicago Woman magazine. She was awarded the Charles Loring
Brace Award from Children's Aid Society and the National Hannah Solomon
Award for work in literacy.
Ms. Block holds an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Audrey Cohen
College for Social Research.
An icon of the toy industry
who helped first popularize the pairing of technology and toys, Neil
Friedman was president of the Mattel Brands division at Mattel,
Inc. Friedman – a Toy Industry Hall of Famer and International
Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association’s (LIMA) Hall of Famer –
oversees all of Mattel, Fisher-Price and Radica:® brands such as
Barbie®, Hot Wheels® and Mattel Games, as well as toys licensed by the
industry’s leading entertainment properties, such as Disney/Pixar’s
CARS, Dora the Explorer™ and Sesame Workshop®.
As president of Fisher-Price Brands from 1999-2005, he oversaw the
introduction of electronic learning toys that significantly grew the
core Fisher-Price business. Today, Mr. Friedman continues to
ensure that every Mattel toy is “magical” and delivers a “wow” to kids
of all ages. Mr. Friedman joined Mattel in March 1997, following
the merger between Tyco Toys, Inc. and Mattel. Prior to joining
Tyco Preschool in 1995, he served as president of MCA/Universal
Merchandising; senior vice president, marketing and operations, Just
Toys; general manager, baby care division, Gerber Products; president,
Aviva/Hasbro, Hasbro’s import division; and executive vice president and
chief operating officer of Lionel Leisure/Kiddie City.
Mr. Friedman currently serves on the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF)
Board of Trustees, the charitable arm of the TIA, where he also serves
as an advisory member to the organization’s board of directors.
Mr. Friedman attended Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., where
he majored in finance. He serves on the boards of several
charitable organizations, including Save the Children and its Survive to
Five Council, the executive advisory board of Children Affected by AIDS
Foundation (CAAF), and the Northside Center for Child Development (New
Stephen Gass, President, Every Baby Company
From about the second grade on, Stephen Gass wanted to be a
doctor. Somewhere during college, his interest turned to becoming
an elementary school teacher. After a few years in the classroom, the
doctor calling returned. But, with just a dissertation to go to complete
a PhD in child development, his inner-Geppeto was released by a job at
Sesame Street. Stephen’s spent the last 30 years creating and
marketing a wide range of children’s products including toys, books,
games and TV for kids between the ages of 6 months to 12 years.
From launching an educational toy group at Coleco, to leading the
creative efforts at Scholastic’s and Nickelodeon’s first software
divisions, to serving as President of Sesame Workshop, Online, Gass has
been an innovator throughout his career. He is a member of the Education
Committee of the board of trustees at PBS-affiliate, WNET/
Thirteen. Currently he serves as the president of the Every Baby
Company, an organization he co-founded to create products and programs
designed to help parents and their babies transform every day play, the
first of which is the multi-award winning series, eebee’s
John Gessert, President/Chief Executive Officer, American
Plastic Toys, Inc.
Mr. John Gessert currently serves as
president and chief executive officer of American Plastics Toys,
Inc. He joined the organization in 1984 in sales and
operations and, after holding regional sales manager positions, became
national sales manager in 1991. He served as executive vice
president from 1998 to 2003 when he was named as president and
Gessert is a member of the Toy Industry Association (TIA)’s Board of
Directors where he serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the Board and as a
member of the Executive Committee.
Gessert and his wife, Susan, reside in Michigan, with their four
children, Ellen, Jack, Emma and Julia. Mr. Gessert earned his
Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his MBA from Wayne
Daniel Grossman, Co-Founder, Wild Planet Toys
Mr. Grossman is the Co-Founder of Wild Planet Toys. He
started Wild Planet in 1993. Prior to founding Wild Planet, Daniel was
the Director of International Sales for Aviva Sports from 1991 – 1993,
during which Aviva was acquired by Mattel Toys. In 1992, he joined the
senior management team of Mattel International. Prior to joining Aviva
Sports, Daniel earned his M.B.A. from Stanford University. He joined the
program after serving seven years in the U.S. Foreign Service, as a
diplomat both overseas and at the Department of State. He received his
B.A. in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University in
Daniel currently serves on the following Boards: Toy Industry
Foundation, Toy Industry Association, the Rosenberg Foundation, the
Business Alliance for the San Francisco Unified School District and the
Jewish Community Federation. He formerly served on the Boards of:
Friends for Youth; The Social Venture Network; Students for Responsible
Business; Jewish Community Relations Council; Private Industry Council
of San Francisco, the Stanford Center on Ethics, Stand for Youth, the
Joshua Venture; and Children's Television and Resource Education
Søren Torp Laursen, President, LEGO Systems, Inc.
Søren Torp Laursen is president of LEGO Systems, Inc. (overseeing operations in North America, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland) all of which are divisions of the family-owned and privately-held LEGO Group, one of the world’s largest toy companies, based in Billund, Denmark.
Bringing 25 years experience with the LEGO Group, primarily in global sales, marketing and leadership, Laursen, who is situated at LEGO Systems Inc., the North American headquarters in Enfield, Connecticut, is responsible for all LEGO sales, marketing and operations for the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland.
Laursen joined LEGO Group in 1986 as international marketing trainee. He became export manager, LEGO Overseas A/S, supporting LEGO sales and marketing through distributors in Africa and Asia. In 1991, he became area manager, LEGO Overseas A/S, responsible for all sales and marketing operations in Asia Pacific. He moved to Auckland in 1996 to begin LEGO New Zealand Ltd., where, as general manager, Laursen took over sales, distribution and marketing from distributors to fuel strong growth for the LEGO brand in the market. He returned to Denmark in 1999 as senior vice president, special markets, responsible for LEGO Europe East, LEGO Educational Division and special sales (global co-promotions and travel retail). In 2000, he moved to London to head the company’s Europe North and Europe East divisions.
Laursen currently is Chairman of the Toy Industry Association (TIA) where he serves on their Board of Directors and Executive Committee. He serves on the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) Board of Directors, as well as a member of the CCMC’s Strategy Task Force Committee. Laursen is also on the Board of Directors of the LEGO Children’s Fund.
Laursen has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from The Aarhus School of Business in Aarhus, Denmark and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing from The Business School South in Kolding, Denmark.
A native Dane, Laursen and his wife, Annette, reside in Connecticut, with their two children, Camille and Christian.
Denielle Pemberton-Heard, Group Counsel Program Business
Affairs for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Pemberton-Heard is responsible for negotiating content acquisition deals
for the national PBS broadcast schedule and PBS.org. Prior to joining
PBS, Pemberton-Heard held in-house legal positions with Time Inc. and
Discovery Communications, Inc. parent of Discovery Channel and The
Learning Channel. Pemberton-Heard began her Legal career in private
practice as an associate at Connecticut’s Wiggin and Dana and later
moved on to the New York firm of Cowan Liebowitz and Latman where she
worked on commercial litigation and trademark matters and contributed
with D. Goldberg, et al., to “Recent Developments in Copyright” Selected
and Annotated Cases, Journal of the Copyright Society (1992); and A.
Greenbaum and J. Ginsberg, “1991 Letter Update” Trademark and
Unfair Competition Law, Cases and Materials, The Michie Company
Ms. Pemberton-Heard holds a B.A. from Tufts University, a Juris
Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and is an
alumna of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
Pemberton-Heard has served as a Co-Chair of Walker Memorial Dinner Gala
in Washington DC benefiting Africare, on the Programming Committee of
the Washington Episcopal School and is currently mentoring at risk
students through the I Have a Dream Foundation as one of the founding
members of Level 8.
Genna Rosenberg, Principal, GennComm
Rosenberg joined the Toy Industry Foundation Board of Trustees in
February 2010. She is the Principal at GennComm, a full service
Communications and Strategy group deeply rooted in the toy industry.
Prior to launching GennComm, Rosenberg was Executive Vice President,
Strategic Marketing, Communications & Business Development for
Imperial Toy LLC, and she also served as Senior Vice President of
Communications, Investor Relations and Philanthropy for toymaker JAKKS
Pacific for 11 years. She was a key member of the executive management
teams for both companies. Rosenberg has vast experience in marketing,
communications, licensing and business development, and has worked over
the years as a strategic and public ambassador for many of today’s most
beloved and classic kids’ brands with industry giants including Disney,
Nickelodeon, Marvel, Sanrio, HIT Entertainment, Warner Bros, Sony,
Mattel, Hasbro and many more. She is a spokesperson to worldwide media
on toy industry issues, and is also deeply passionate about children's
philanthropy. She is a Board Member for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good
Times in addition to Toy Industry Foundation. Rosenberg also formalized
JAKKS Cares™, under which she directed donations which have totaled over
$50 million and positioned the Company as a leader in Corporate Social
Rosenberg has been active on several Toy Industry Association
Committees for many years, is a Board Member and featured speaker for
Women in Toys, and a member of the Los Angeles Community Leaders group.
She was also a PR News 2003 PR Professional of the Year Finalist; LA
Business Journal 2009 Women Making a Difference Award for Executive of
the Year Finalist and The Women in Toys 2010 Wonder Woman in Toys ‘Woman
to Watch’ Winner.
Arnie Rubin, Chairman & CEO, Funrise, Inc.
Arnie Rubin who recently became a full time Park City, Utah resident has been in the toy industry for over forty-five years, starting as a bubble mixer at Chemical Sundries in 1965. In 1969, he co-founded Imperial Toy Company and in 1987 he formed Funrise Toy Corporation. Funrise is best known for its Tonka "light and sound" emergency vehicles with working sirens and lights, which it has manufactured under license from Hasbro since 1999. Funrise produces the popular Gazillion® Bubbles line, which has grown to become the #1 Bubble Brand in the Nation (NPD Group) and has many popular licenses.
Rubin is the past Chairman of the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and Toy Industry Association (TIA). In 2009, he was named to the Toy Safety Certification Program’s Oversight Council and elected as president of the International Council of Toy Industries and is a member if the ICTI Care Board of Governance.
In addition to his support of the Toy Industry Foundation, Rubin has served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Braille Institute, and was Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Families of Blind Children. He organized the Toy Run for Kids benefiting Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, which has brought donations of more than $100,000 annually.
Rubin was recognized for his outstanding contributions and service to the toy industry during the T.O.T.Y. (Toy Of The Year) Awards ceremony held on February 11, 2012, in New York City. Rubin joined former inductees including Alan Hassenfeld and Al Verrecchia, Hasbro, Inc., John Lasseter, Walt Disney Company/Pixar Animation Studios, Sam Walton, Walmart, Neil Friedman and Charles Lazarus, Toys ‘R’ Us to name a few.
Caren Shalek, Principle, CAS Consulting
Caren Shalek joined the Toy Industry Foundation Board of Trustees in February of 2013. Shebrings a diverse background in consumer products licensing and business development,havingover 25 years experiencedirectingall facets of iconic preschool and entertainment brands.
For the past 6 years Caren haspiloted a wide variety ofsuccessful projects, includingtechnologyand social-media driven IP development, through her CAS Consulting company.Prior to consulting, Caren was Senior Vice President, Consumer Products atPorchLight Entertainment, a children’s and family entertainment company where she served on the Board of Directors. While at PorchLight, Caren was instrumental in the company becoming a leading manager of ancillary rights for children and family brands.
Caren spent years5 yearswith Mattel/Fisher-Price as Vice President Consumer Products, managing over 10,000 productsand100 licenseesworldwide. Shealso served as Vice President of Licensing and Consumer Products and Product Development Worldwidefor Sesame Workshop. It was Caren's teamwhofirst brought Tickle Me Elmo to market. She also created and launched programs with retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, FAO and Toys R’ Us.
Caren holds a degree from Simmons College. She also completed the Thunderbird GlobalLeadership Program and the Senior Executive Mattel Global Leadership Curriculum.
Al Verrecchia, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hasbro,
Al Verrecchia, Hasbro’s President and Chief Executive
Officer from May 2003 through May 2008 and currently serving as Chairman of the Board, has held several senior executive positions
years at Hasbro, Inc. including President and Chief Operating
Chief Financial Officer; President, Hasbro Manufacturing Services;
Executive Vice President, Global Operations, among other key
in Providence, Rhode Island, Mr. Verrecchia joined Hasbro in 1965
A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Mr. Verrecchia, now
resident of Narragansett, Rhode Island, is married to his wife Gerrie,
has four children, Michael, Michele, Melisa and Lisa, as well as
grandchildren. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s
URI. Mr. Verrecchia also received an Honorary Doctor of Business
Administration from Johnson & Wales University in 1991 and an
Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Rhode Island in
addition to serving on Hasbro’s Board of Directors, Mr. Verrecchia also serves on the board of FM Global,
world’s largest commercial and industrial property insurance
focusing on risk management and specializing in engineering-driven
property. Mr. Verrecchia also serves as Chairman of the Board of Iron Mountain, Inc.
Bob Wann, Chief Executive Officer, Patch Products
Bob Wann is the CEO of Patch Products Inc., makers of Patch, Lauri and Smethport Branded toys, games and educational products. Bob proudly serves on the Executive Committee of Toy Industry Association's Board of Directors and holds the Chair position for both the PlayCon Conference Committee and the Toy Industry Foundation's Fundraising Committee.
Wann has over 30 years experience at both Fortune 500 and Entrepreneurial/Start-up companies in U.S and International markets. Through strategic brand and product development combined with creative marketing, he has overseen the development and growth of some of the most recognized brands in Toys and Consumer Packaged Goods, including M&M's, Johnson & Johnson, Fisher Price and Hasbro. Wann developed his brand building and marketing skills at M & M Mars, Johnson & Johnson and American Greetings and later applied these skills as VP of Marketing at Fisher Price, Executive Vice President of Playskool and President/Worldwide General Manager of Milton Bradley/Parker Bros at Hasbro, overseeing the successful introduction or growth of industry recognized brands such as Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Fisher Price, Playskool, and Nerf.
Wann is widely recognized as a creative thinker and marketer, developing award-winning programs such as "Family Game Night” and “Get Together Games.”
He has been married to his wife Amy for 19 years, and resides in Lake Geneva, WI with their 16-year-old daughter Melanie.