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2017 Toy & Game Innovation Awards

Took Place on November 17th, 2017, 6pm - 10pm

Plans for 2018 TBA! 


The TAGIEs are an elegant and playful evening gala that brings together industry leaders from inventors to manufacturers to retailers as well as the public for a celebratory evening of innovators and inventors from around the world.

The Toy & Game Innovation Awards are voted on by industry experts, retailers and consumers to recognize recipients for excellence in various categories. The TAGIEs also recognize the teams the inventors worked with at the companies that brought their ideas to life. This collaboration and inventiveness has resulted in the most fun and entertaining play products on the market today. We also honor to those inventor greats who stand out in the toy industry for their exceptionally innovative spirit of fun, philanthropy, and humanitarianism.

2017 TAGIEs in Navy Pier Grand Ballroom. 

Thank You to Our Sponsors! 

Gary Swisher, SVP of Inventor Relations and Head of Gaming​, Mattel


2017 TAGIE Awards Finalists, Winners and Honorees

Details on Finalists HERE!


Winner: David Small and Paul Rago of Shoot the Moon for BB8 (Spin Master), Barbie Dance Horse (Mattel) and More!  

Presenter: Erik Hansen, Sr. Innovation Director at LEGO System A/S

Video of Acceptance Speech


Oliver Morris and Fuse, Roller Coaster Challenge

Jim McCafferty and JMP Creative team, Catch the Fox

KID Group, Ultra Dash

Seven Towns, Ltd., Who’s the Dude?

Top Notch Toys, Fantastic Gymnastics



Winner: Don Ullman and Steve Calhoun for Soggy Doggy (Spin Master and John Adams) and More

Presenter: Tanya Thompson, Director Global Product Acquisition Gaming, Hasbro Inc.  

Video of Acceptance Speech


Bang Zoom Design, Barbie on the Go

Desinbytouch, Nerf Nitro

Ronen Horovitz, Play Doh Touch

Ruth Green-Synowic, Paint Sation


Winner: Olivia Wasilewski and Brynna Siewers for Ship of Treasures (Pressman Toy)

Presenter: Dave Harris, Director of Inventor Relations for Fisher-Price

Video of Acceptance Speech


Samaira Mehta, CoderBunnyz

Shay Bhattessa Sharma, Football Billionaire Limited

Sydney and Toni Loew, Poketti Plushies with Pocket Powers


Winner: Joyce Sprau for Flower Fairies Secret Garden (Ultimate Source), Happy Meals and More! 

Presenter: Scott Brown, Vice President of Marbles Brand, Spin Master

Video of Acceptance Speech


Brady Peterson, Groovy Blocks

Thijmen de Schipper, Spy Code Break Free

Brian Gomez (Egils Grasmanis, Edgars Zakis,

Janis Grunte, Reinis Butans), Ice Cool

Dominic Yard, Thomas Adventures Sea Monster Pirate Set, Shark Escape Play Sets




Winner: Rory O'Connor and Anita Murphy for The Extraordinaires Design Studio

Presenter: Peggy Brown of Peggy Brown Creative

Video of Acceptance Speech


Funnybone Toys, Whim, Akin, Spirot, Spectracube, Anaxi, etc.

Harmonix, DropMix

Mattel, Enchantimals

MGA Entertainment, L.O.L. Surprise! Collectible Dolls


Winner: Hatchimals Team (Spin Master) 

Presenter: David Yakos, of Salient Technologies

Video of Acceptance Speech


Mattel, Dads Who Play Barbie

Hasbro, Nerf’s Dude Perfect

Marektoy, Klask and Bonk

PlayMonster, Ultra Dash


Lisa Guili, General Manager of Educational Insights

Presenter: Mary Jo Reutter, You Betcha Interactive!

Video of Acceptance Speech



Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital 

Presenter: Alison Ray of SoChiMedia

Accepting: Tracey McCusker, Associate Director, Events and Circle of Friends

Special Presentation by Olivia Wasilewski and Brynna Siewers

Video of Acceptance Speech



Judy Blau, J. Hope Designs 

Presenter: Rich Mazel, Senior Director, Global Product Acquisition, Hasbro

Accepting: Ethan Paul for his grandmother, Judy Blau

Video of Acceptance Speech


Adi Golad, Managing Director and Founder of Goliath Games

Presenter: Michael Kohner, President of The Michael Kohner Corporation 

Presenter: David Norman, President of Goliath Games NA

Video of Acceptance Speech

2017 TAGIE Awards Host

Our host of the evening is Richard Gill,  a long time member of the industry. In the mid-80’s Richard worked first as a licensee, subsequently becoming the Executive VP of Horn Abbot International for Trivial Pursuit internationally. Richard became a partner in the Pictionary brand in the late 1980’s and expanded development into 70+ markets and 40+ languages around the world while developing a licensing program including as an Emmy Nomination" for the Pictionary TV show. In 2001 Richard founded a successful business working with multiple smaller companies and inventors to help exploit brands and concepts around the world. Today McGill Assocs. has products placed in 40+ global markets including multiple award winning products "5 Second Rule”, “Telestrations”, "My Fairy Garden”, “ANOMIA” and “Roominate”

2017 TAGIE Awards Keynote

Presenting our keynote is Dan Klitsner, Founder of KID Group.

Since 1990 the San Francisco invention studio has created over 300 games and toys, specializing in combining physical and digital play that gets kids up and active. KID is most well known for Hasbro's "Bop It" line, as co-inventors of the Perplexus line of interactive labyrinths, and recently for re-imagining the iconic game Simon as Simon Swipe, Simon Air and Simon Optix. Dan graduated with a BS in Industrial Design from Art Center College of Design in 1982 and has taught invention and design at California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco State and the San Francisco Academy of Art.

Our Keynote for the evening is Gary Swisher, SVP of Inventor Relations and Head of Gaming​, Mattel  

Gary is the Senior Vice President of Inventor Relations and Games at Mattel, Inc. He started his toy career working on a favorite from his childhood, “Hot Wheels” he “played” with that brand for 16 years, (just long enough to get his drivers license).

He left Mattel and went to the wild and crazy world of Jakks Pacific where he and his Marketing partner Jamie Wood built the Road Champs line into an Xtreme sports mecca…(oh the fun of the XGames).

He and Jamie then started Best Pals, where he got to use every last ounce of his Design skills to create a broad line of toys, led by a Six Flags Roller Coaster and a Big Foot Monster truck or two! In 2005 Mattel bought their assets, and brought them both back in.

Gary then had the good fortune of working under Richie Weintraub, an icon in the industry that taught him more about being a good Design leader, than he thought was possible. When Richie retired, Tim Kilpin gave Gary the chance to lead Creative for all of Boys, Girls and Games at Mattel (making sure to keep him away from the wonders of Barbie :). 

He then had the joy of being the Creative liaison to the newly acquired MEGA BLOKS, he spent a year and a half traveling every other week to Montreal, (working with the most creative group of constructors the world has ever known). 

When Susie Lecker returned from MEGA she brought Gary back with a broad set of responsibilities including; GM of Inventor Relations, Games, New Ventures and Packaging, he also got to have fun with ABC’s Toy Box TV Show (what a different world that is).  His focus is now on Inventors and Games, where he has the joy of working with Ray Adler and the Mattel Games team, as well as the best Inventor Relations team in the industry, representing all of Mattel’s AMAZING Brands.

2017 TAGIE Presenters

Presenting Toy Innovator of the Year is Erik Hansen, Sr. Innovation Director at LEGO System A/S.

Working in Creative Play Lab Erik collaborates with leading universities and companies big and small to create toys that inspire and develop children.  

Erik loves tinkering and made his first invention as a young boy: A cookie cutter (still used by his mother) based on a discarded oil filter from a 1952 Ferguson tractor. Lately he has built a sustainable heating system for his farmhouse; all controlled by a LEGO Mindstorms robot.   Erik holds degrees in Electronics, Technology Management, and in Business Innovation & Concept Creation. He has taught at Danish universities and coaches tennis in his spare time.

Presenting Game Innovator of the Year is Tanya Thompson, Director Global Product Acquisition Gaming, Hasbro Inc.  

Tanya has also worked in similar roles for Marbles the Brain Store , Mastermind Toys and ThinkFun. Tanya believes in changing the world through PLAY! She is honored to be on the Executive Board of the Chicago Toy and Game Group as well as on the boards of HATCH (community of creative thought leaders collaborating on HATCHing a better world) and SNAP Mathematics Foundation (an organization bringing math puzzles to life in the classroom).

Presenting Young Inventor of the Year is Dave Harris, Director of Inventor Relations for Fisher-Price. 

Dave has been with Fisher-Price for 20 years and leads the FP Inventor Relations teams located in East Aurora and NYC.  At FP he has worked mostly in marketing on categories including Infant, Newborn, Baby Gear, Creative Activities, Power Wheels and New Opportunities.  He also spent a couple years in Strategic Partnerships working with best in class education and tech partners and several years creating exclusive products for retailers.

Presenting the Inventor Advocacy Award is Mary Jo Reutter, You Betcha Interactive! Mary Jo is a LA-based inventor creating board games and creativity toys, some of which include Even Steven’s Odd, Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Card Game, Disney Princess Friends Forever and The Home Gene-Splicing Kit. Recently, she worked in partnership to launch a “midnight” (aka “adult”) version of Taboo and Outburst, as well as a series of games for Mental Floss. Mary Jo’s interest in games and toys springs from her earlier years in digital entertainment, with clients such as McGraw Hill, CA Science Center and The Getty. She's now the principal of You-Betcha Interactive, fulfilling a lifelong goal. While other kids imagined being sports heroes or movie stars, she always dreamed of the day she’d see a product she’d developed in somebody’s shopping cart.

Presenting our Most Innovative Marketing Team of the Year is David Yakos, of Salient Technologies. 

David  is a full-time inventor, designer, artist & engineer.  Named Toy-Innovator-of-the-Year 2016, he invented ThinkFun’s Circuit Maze & Lionel Mega Tracks - both TOTY 2017 finalists. He is co-founder of the engineering firm, Salient Technologies, Inc. and the invention house, Streamline Design. Along with the help of his creative team, David develops and invents hundreds of products from cryogenic space valves for NASA to playful games, like Hasbro’s Dunk Hat. David lives with his wife, Kari, their four kids and assorted pets in beautiful Bozeman, Montana.

Co-Presenting Lifetime Achievement Award to Adi Golad is David Norman, President of Goliath Games North America. 

Before entering the toy industry, David had the hardest job in the world.  He was selling Exxon oil to Alaskan fisherman after Valdez spill and he wasn’t very successful.  He escaped that and broke into the toy industry with University Games eventually rising to become their Vice President of Sales.  After 12 years he left University Games to cofound Goliath’s North American office in 2008 with his soon-to-be friend, Adi Golad.

Mr. Norman holds a Master’s in Business Degree from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree from Southern Methodist University.  His hobbies include board games, playing with his dog and coaching his kids’ sports teams. 

2017 Lifetime Achievement Honoree

Judy Blau 

Judith H. Blau, finds “toy” opportunities in ordinary products and nature. She discovered that her confining childhood illness defined her future as an artist, author, toy inventor and dedicated environmental educator, leading her on a “Serendipitous Journey”.

Judy’s “playground” includes over 60 licensed toys like, Baby All Gone® (with Hyman & Greenberg), Footlights, Sweetie Pops and a variety of preschool toys and gifts. She has designed bedding, like Puppet Sheet Theater and Bedkins, and written, illustrated and/or developed 15 children’s books. She is founder of Treetures®, pro bono, whimsical tree science program, endorsed by the United Nations and US Forest Service.

Read Judy's full story HERE! 

Adi Golad 

Goliath Games was founded in 1980 by Adi. From a one-man-one-product-one-country- show, now selling thousands of products, with hundreds in the team, in tens of countries. Adi and Margreeth (his wife) fell in love over a game of Rummikub with the Israeli desert in the background. To cut a long story short, Adi quit his career as a mechanical engineer, married his love, traded his car for 500 games, moved to Holland and together with Margreeth, began selling board games on the street, because the conventional trade rejected their offering. Despite obstacles on the way, by applying grass-root marketing they popularized this one single game among Dutch people. Their persistence and efforts paid off with offices and distributors today around the globe.

2017 Inventor Advocacy Honoree

Lisa Guili, General Manager of Educational Insights. 

Lisa not only has a sharp eye for talent and good ideas, but has always been a strong champion of the inventors with whom she works. She is the mastermind behind the company’s policy to include the game or toy inventor’s name, photo and bio on packaging and in all aspects of the company’s marketing. It’s an idea that has strengthened Educational Insights’ connection to the inventors they work with, helping boost their profiles in both the professional and public spheres. In the span of her nearly 24 years in the industry, Lisa has helped bring more than 100 inventor-driven products to shelves throughout the world. Among them are Robot Face Race™ Game, Even Steven’s Odd™, Blurt!®, and a soon-to-be-released update of GeoSafari® Jr. Talking Microscope, featuring teen celebrity Bindi Irwin on voiceover.

2017 Hassenfeld Family Initiatives Humanitarian Award

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital, provides superior pediatric care in a setting that offers the latest benefits and innovations in medical technology, research and family-friendly design. As the largest pediatric provider in the region with a 130-year legacy of excellence, kids and their families are at the center. 

Presenting the Hassenfeld Falimy Initiative Humanitarian Award is Alison Ray of SoChiMedia

Alison Ray is a social media consultant, brand ambassador, event strategist and founder of and So Chic Media. Transitioning a sixteen-year career as a professional meeting & event planner and CEO of Metropolitan Marketing & Event Group to launch So Chic Life in 2009. 

With a proven background in event marketing, managing and overseeing domestic and international travel for Fortune 500 companies, Alison now focuses on connecting lifestyle brands with their targeted customers and influencers through an online audience of over 100,000. Alison has been featured in Chicago Baby Magazine, named “The Sassiest Mom” by TCW Magazine, Best Chicago Mom Blog by, Oprah LifeClass Blogger and 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger Nominee.​

Music provided by Skip Towne and the Greyhounds, Chicago's #1 Blues Band! 

The band's music is hard-driving, heartfelt, classic blues, jazz, swing, ballads, and downright good time Rockin’ Blues.

More Pictures from 2017 TAGIEs Coming Soon! 

Attend the TAGIEs in 2018!

Don't miss out on an extraordinary evening! Join us at the TAGIEs for  an elegant celebration of innovation and People of Play!

Meet inventors, innovators and the toy & game industry behind your favorite toys and games!

Friday, November 16th, 2018
6pm Cocktails, 
7pm Dinner & Ceremony
10pm Evening Concludes
Venue TBA, Formal or Cocktail Attire
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