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About POP and CHITAG Group


We are the Chicago Toy & Game Group and you can call us “ChiTAG” – pronounced SHY-Tag – for short. Founded by Mary Couzin in 2003, we produce POP Week, a series of events promoting and celebrating play and innovation that welcomes industry, consumers and traditional and social media the week before Thanksgiving. Our main events include:


  • Chicago Toy & Game Fair (since 2003). The first and the largest public toy and game fair in North America targeting families. In 2018 we garnered over 1.4 billion media impressions and entertained over 30,000 attendees.

  • Inventor Pitch and Innovation Conferences (since 2006) The largest gathering of professional inventors, new inventors and product acquisition executives in the world. Attendees come from approximately 25 countries to pitch ideas, network, learn and celebrate the toy and game inventor community. 

  • POP Roast (since 2022). A savagely hilarious Roast of a Toy Industry Celeb (and Good Sport) by a bevy of their peers.

  • Play in Education (PIE) Conference - (Since 2006) Studies show a focus on play means better performance in academics and social competence. This conference discusses strategies for bringing play into the classroom and provides CE credits.

  • Toy & Game International Excellence Awards (TAGIEs) (since 2008). 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 innovation from around the world.

  • Young Inventor Challenge (YIC) (since 2006). The YIC provides an opportunity for children ages 6 to 18 to showcase their original toy and game inventions to industry professionals, members of media and the general public. All entrants receive feedback from industry executives and inventors as well as the opportunity to win prizes, scholarships and licensing agreements with toy and game companies. 

  • Girl Scout and Boy Scout Events at the Fair during the Chicago Toy & Game Fair 

  • Media Influencer Event (since 2009) Hundreds of traditional media and social media influencers bring their families for breakfast, entertainment and a day of fun at the Fair. 

  • PlayCHIC Fashion Show (since 2012) Fashion sells. The PlayCHIC Fashion Show celebrates dress-up by inspiring play through a new avenue - fashion.


We recently launched People of Play, POP! People of Play is the toy industry’s most comprehensive networking and resource hub; a social platform and industry portal where toy industry veterans, newbies, inventors, buyers, job seekers, recruiters, consumers, and others come to find each other. Get up-to-the-minute toy industry, event, and product news; participate in live online educational and networking events; browse a vast library of expert resources; and peruse and post to the industry’s only dedicated social feed.


Year round we send monthly newsletters to over 225,000 industry, consumers, social media influencers and educators covering many aspects of play for different audiences. What differentiates us, is our focus on the people. We tell the compelling stories behind the playthings we love creating a deeper and more authentic bond between consumers and toys and games. We also host industry get-togethers around the world to connect in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
Our Chicago Toy and Game Foundation was founded in 2011 and is a philanthropic foundation supporting many children’s organizations. 

Mission, Vision and Values


To Connect the POP Community: toy and game inventors, designers, factories, suppliers, developers, marketers, salespeople, retailers, shoppers, members of the media – all play stakeholders.

To Support the POP Community: POP events, pub events, and internet platform.

 To Inform the POP Community: newsletters, seminars, on-line resources, and 24/7 news feed.



To be the most comprehensive network in the industry, connecting, supporting and informing the worldwide community of play.


  • We believe in the power of play as a necessary component of child development.

  • We believe that the people in the Toy & Game Industry are dedicated to bringing joy and happiness to children of all ages throughout the world.

  • We believe that Innovation and Creativity are the driving forces for industry growth and relevance.

  • We believe in ethics and fair-mindedness in dealing with all industry stakeholders.

  • We believe in the untapped potential of children throughout the world to do good and make the world better.

  • We believe in providing the industry critical and creditable support services with information, training and consumer feedback.

  • We believe in an organization grounded in Trust and Accountability.

  • We believe in being the premiere creative organization and connection portal for the Global Toy and Game Industry and that innovation and creativity are the driving forces for growth and relevance.

Meet the Team

Mary Couzin - CEO & Founder

Mary Couzin

After inventing, self-producing and licensing her own toys and games, Mary turned her passion for invention to help other inventors through, the world's largest co-op of toy and game inventors.  In 2003, Mary launched the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (CHITAG) with a plan to create the largest American celebration of play. In 2006 she introduced the Toy & Game Inventor's Conference to help new inventors connect with industry experts, and in 2008 the Toy & Game Innovator of the Year Awards (TAGIEs) to honor and celebrate toy and game innovators.  Tracks for professional inventors, design students, social media and play in education have been added to the Conferences through the years. Thinking to celebrate play in an edgier way, she launched PlayCHIC, a toy and game inspired fashion event in 2011. 2006 saw the debut of the Young Inventor Challenge which has over 250 kids competing from around North America and overseas. It’s all about encouraging inventiveness and creativity in kids! Mary's latest initiative is POP! It is a bit of linkedin+imdb+wikipedia+match+fivvr all rolled into one powerful platform for anyone interested in toys and games! 


Mary is a Selection Committee Member at National Toy Hall of Fame, International Toy Research Association (ITRA) Organizing Comittee member, a past CES KAPI Awards Judge and a TOTY Award Selection Committee member. She has served on TIA's Associate Membership and PlayCon/ToyCon Committees. On occasion, she writes for ToyBook, Time to Play Magazine and other publications as well as actively posts in traditional and social media promoting the importance of play and innovation. She has spoken at ComicCon, ASTRA, NY Toy Fair, GenCon, World Congress of Play, Chicago Auto Show and ChiTAG hosted events.


She’s humbled by many honors through the years: 2019 Prestigious UK Toy Fair Inventors' Dinner I.D.I.O.T. Award (International Designer and Inventor of Toys), 2017 Women in Toys Elise Lachowyn Mentorship Award, Women in Toys Wonder Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2009, 2011 TAGIE Founder's Award, 2011 Global Toy News Person of the Year and the 2014 Woman Driving Excellence, Chicago Auto Show. She is active in local politics having served on City Council, Parks Board, Sculpture Committee, Zoning Board and Plan Commission. She is a past United Way Board Member and mentors students at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in their Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. Mary received a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and a MBA from Loyola University.

Nadine Sehnert - Director of Operations


Nadine Sehnert uses board games to build community.  She has been the administrator for the Twin Cities Board Games Meetup Group since 2006.  She enjoys going to gaming events and especially meeting game designers and inventors. Together with her husband Mike Tangedal, they have a collection of over 3,000 board games dating from the late 1800's through today.  She hopes to one day open a gaming center and create a permanent game library.

Nadine started attending our Chicago Toy & Game Fair way back in 2003 coming all the way from Minneapolis each year! 

Supriya Perera - Director of Special Projects

Supriya Perera

Supriya Perera has grown up around the world. She is passionate about designing a good user experience and service design and have worked in this area for over 10 years. A recent 'transplant' from Australia to Chicago, she enjoys the energy and opportunity that this city has to offer. The Chicago Toy and Game web site streamline and redesign is keeping her busy with challenges in the unique position it occupies and the multitude of people the ChiTAG Group impacts.

Brent Rolland - Director of Auditory & Visual Delights

Brent Rolland

Chicago native Brent Rolland was possibly born in a Toys "R" Us somewhere in the city - being raised on LegoTM, robots, board games and more, his truth is that play is an art that is forever young. Brent is a DJ and event producer with Fig Media, plays drums/percussion in various local groups, and hosts, designs, and produces game shows for anime, fandom and corporate conventions nationwide. Brent celebrates his sixth year with the Inventor Conferences and ChiTAG Group, and is honored to be with an amazing team of individuals that selflessly deliver joy annually to Chicago's families and fun-lovers.

Rebecca Horrace - Editor of the Play in Education Newsletter 

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Rebecca holds both her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University, along with her Reading Specialist and Structured English Immersion Endorsements. She has taught elementary school, ran a homeschool cooperative program, and founded a 4-H club for military youth. She is now a lecturer of Literacy Methods for a local university and homeschools her two children - whom she gains all her playful inspiration from! Rebecca is also finishing her Doctorate in Education with Indiana University in the Literacy, Culture, and Language Education program with a research focus on the intersection of play and popular media with literacy components while utilizing technology to expand the definition of local by converting distant interactions into a common, shared space. It is Rebecca’s passion to reignite the dwindling spark between play and education along her career journey.

Patrick Matthews - Play in Education Contributor

Patrick Matthews

Patrick Matthews is one of the publishers of the Play in Education website and newsletter, and works as its editor and webmaster.  He's also the president of Live Oak Games, the designer of several award winning games and author of the Dragon Run book series. When Pat's not designing, reviewing, or playing games, you can find him on the swingset out back, playing with his two kids.  He writes a newspaper column called DaddyTales about his (mis)adventures with the little guys.

Ahren Hoffman - Young Inventor Challenge Director

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Ahren Hoffman has been involved with many of our events over the years! This year she is taking charge of our fan favorite Young Inventor Challenge. For those of you wondering, yes, she is still Marketing Team Lead at Crazy Aaron's, one of our Young Inventor Challenge sponsors. We are appreciative she has a bit of extra time to head this very special event. 

Kim Vandenbroucke - Content Director

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Kim Vandenbroucke is formerly the writer of the award-winning industry and game review website The Game Aisle. For 13 years she highlighted industry trends, inventor stories, as well as her experience as a game inventor in the best industry in the world.  After taking a couple years off, Kim was missing writing about all things toy and game related and will now be contributing stories to the People of Play website. She hopes that you follow along!  

Peggy Brown - Editor and Creative Director 

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Peggy Brown is the resident editor and creative director of website imagery and content for Chicago Toy & Game Group, dba People of Play. She directs the meme team, which creates topical and humorous memes for all publications, she writes for and edits the Bloom Report, and creates graphics and imagery for numerous websites, ads, and huge onsite graphics for various events throughout the year. She acts as an ambassador internationally for POP, attending London, Nuremberg, and Barcelona events to bring more members into our organization. She is on a number of committees keeping our events moving along efficiently throughout the year.

Patrick Fisher  - Web Developer & Assistant Editor

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Patrick is a jack of all trades kind of guy! He enjoys tackling all sorts of tech related projects. He is our assistant producer and editor of our newsletters as well as a junior developer of our website. Currently a junior at DePaul University studying computer science, Patrick is the Treasurer of DePaul’s Computer Science Society. While school work takes up a lot of his time, when free he likes walking to the lakefront and enjoys all that living in Chicago has to offer.

Isabelle Hodges  - Customer and Website Manager


Isabelle loves to create all things crafty and whimsical, from artistic projects to playful videos. She graduated from Smith College with degrees in Computer Science and Sociology, but also developed skills in videography, Design Thinking, and making. Isabelle is excited to contribute to the POP team by providing customer and website support on

Harrison Brooks  - Database & Content Manager

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From spending hours on the floor creating LEGO structures to playing Gin Rummy with his grandma, Harrison Brooks, a high school senior from New York, has always loved to play. He is CEO (Chief Elevator Officer) of ElevatorUp, a new family card game, which he created, designed, and markets. Harrison also works on CHITAG's brand new, where he assists new users get started, coordinates with the programmers, and brainstorms new features! He is honored and so excited to be part of the amazing CHITAG/POP team and the broader toy/game industry.

Julia DeKorte - Staff Writer and Content Manager for POP

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Julia DeKorte is a student at the College of William & Mary studying English and Creative Writing. With a love for writing and a passion for reading, she runs her own blog, Dog Eared Books, in which she writes book reviews bi-weekly. Also a staff writer and editor for William & Mary's alumni magazine and a student consultant at W&M's Writing Resources Center, she regularly immerses herself in all things reading, writing, and editing.

CHITAG Advisory Board

Chitag 2019 Board Meeting NYTF Official

Pictured above: Dan Klitsner (KID Group), Tanya Thompson (Hasbro), Adi Golad (Goliath), Dave Harris (Mattel), Peggy Brown (Peggy Brown Creative Consulting), David Yakos (Salient Technologies), Robert Fuhrer (Nextoy), Tim Walsh (The Playmakers), Phil Sage (Hasbro), Gary Swisher (Spin Master), Matt Nuccio (Design Edge), Ben Dermer (Spin Master), Karri Bean (Disney), John Barbour (Volta Capital), Richard Gill (McGill & Associates), Alan Hassenfeld (Hasbro), (missing Rachel Griffin (JAKKS Pacific) and Rich Mazel (Hasbro))

Peggy Brown

Karri Bean, Co-Chairperson of CHITAG/POP Advisory Board, 

Senior Manager, Lego at Disney Consumer Products

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John Barbour

Managing Partner  

Volta Capital

Brian Torney

Peggy Brown

Inventor, Playwright, Designer, Author, Filmmaker, Funmaker

Mary Couzin

President, Founder

Chicago Toy & Game Group

Phil Sage
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Robert Fuhrer

Owner at Nextoy 

and KenKen Puzzle

Richard Gill.jpg
Alan Hassenfeld

Richard Gill

Chief Explorer Monster

PlayMonster International

Alan Hassenfeld

Chairman, Exec. Committee, Hasbro

Chairman, Hassenfeld Family Initiatives

Brian Torney

Dave Harris

Director, Inventor Relations and Strategic Partnerships


Dan Klitsner

Dan Klitsner


KID Group

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Adi Golad

Founder and Managing Director


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Rachel Griffin


PlayWise PR

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Dougal Grimes

Vice President of Innovation And Inventor Relations

 Spin Master

Tim Walsh

Tim Walsh

Co-Founder, Roo Games; Filmmaker, Author, DesignerThe Playmakers

Phil Sage

Phil Sage

Senior Director : Design & Innovation HUB, N.A.


Brian Torney

Gary Swisher

Co-Chairperson of CHITAG/POP Advisory Board,

Former EVP and SVP at Spin Master and Mattel 

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Angus Walker

Head Of Inventor Relations & External Innovation


Tim Walsh

David Yakos

Creativity Director, Co-Owner

Salient Technologies

Executive Committee

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Peggy Brown
Jean Butler.jpg

Karri Bean

Co-Chairperson of CHITAG/POP Advisory Board,

Senior Manager, Lego at Disney Consumer Products

Jean Butler


Taurus Blooms LLC

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Gene Murtha

Chairmain,  Bucks


Regional Director SCORE

Jerry Cleary


In-Sync Consulting LLC

Public Relations & Social Media Team

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Emily Potrzuski

Freeman Public Relations

CHITAG Ambassador Extraordinaire

Debbie Labinger

Debbie Labinger

Creative Content

2016 PlayCHIC Fashion team
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