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Announcing the 2020 Awards Honorees

About Bright Promises Foundation's Annual Awards

Each year, Bright Promises Foundation presents our annual awards to offer recognition and gratitude where it’s deeply deserved and too rarely given. The Bright Promises awards honor local community leaders who have dedicated themselves to serving Chicago children and youth and who have made outstanding contributions to the field of children's services.

The process of selecting our Annual Awards recipients is an extension of our mission to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full promise and potential. We recognize that we cannot build a brighter future for our children alone, so by presenting these Awards we are shining a spotlight on the community heroes who are also striving to create opportunities for every child to thrive.

Through our public nominations, we rely on you, our community, to tell us who should receive our awards each year. This year's honorees represent diverse backgrounds and professional experiences and are serving children and youth in a variety of capacities, ranging from early childhood education, community organizing and support services, and positive youth development.

This year's honorees were selected because of the incredible contributions they have made to improving the lives of Chicago children and youth. The 2020 Awards honorees exemplify the following qualities:

  • Innovation - The honoree employs innovative and forward-thinking strategies for serving Chicago children.
  • Inspiration - The honoree serves as a model and inspiration for others.
  • Effectiveness - The honoree is making a lasting difference in the lives of low-income and at-risk children, not just quick or one-time fixes.
  • Impact - The actions of the honoree support the healthy development of children, especially those impacted by poverty and community violence.

Congratulations to the 2020 Awards Honorees

Champion for Children Award - Debbie Frisch, foster mother and Founder of HelloBaby

Debbie Frisch, Founder of HelloBaby, will be honored with the Champion for Children Award. This award recognizes a community leader who has shown exceptional dedication to helping at-risk children in Metropolitan Chicago by supporting innovative programs and practices that are ahead of the curve, and whose commitment and belief in building a better future for Chicago kids serves as a model for others.

Debbie Frisch has served under-resourced families with young children for 20+ years as a nonprofit volunteer, board director, board officer and as foster mother to 56 children. In 2017 she opened HelloBaby, the first free-standing, fee-free drop-in play space for ages birth to 3 years and their caregivers. With 15,000+ visits, HelloBaby is a change agent in the Woodlawn community, providing a welcoming, safe space that promotes development of social, emotional, language, math and motor skills. 

Lifetime Achievement Award - Nancy Aardema, community organizer and outgoing Executive Director of Logan Square Neighborhood Association

Nancy Aardema, community organizer and outgoing Executive Director of Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes a professional in children’s services who has made outstanding contributions to the field and has helped to advance forward-thinking and innovative programs benefiting disadvantaged children and families.

With over 35 years experience as a community organizer, Nancy Aardema is widely recognized as an expert in the field. She has served as the Executive Director  of LSNA for 33 years, building the community school movement, reshaping education organizing, and building mutual support networks for thousands of families. At LSNA, Nancy helped establish the Parent Mentor Program, the Community Schools model, and the Grow Your Own Teachers Program, connecting it all to a holistic organizing plan for housing, immigration, wellness, and economic development.

Elevating Youth Voices Award - Jahmal Cole, activist and Founder/CEO of My Block, My Hood, My City

Jahmal Cole, Founder and CEO of My Block, My Hood, My City, will be honored with the Elevating Youth Voices Award, which is given to an early to mid-career professional in children's services who actively supports the positive development of young people and who is dedicated to empowering youth and amplifying the voices of youth leaders in Metropolitan Chicago. The Elevating Youth Voices Award is accompanied by an honorarium of $5,000 to support the recipients ongoing professional development.

Jahmal Cole is a champion of social justice. His mission is to build a more interconnected Chicago on the pillars of service and education. As the founder and CEO of My Block My Hood My City, Jahmal is the creator of an exposure-based education program for underprivileged youth and a network of volunteer initiatives that serve Chicago communities year-round. Cole is also the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, Exposure Is Key: Solving Violence By Exposing Teens to Opportunities, and It’s Not Regular.

Bright Promises Foundation wants to acknowledge the important and impactful work being done by all of this year’s nominees. We offer our thanks to all of this year's nominees for your continued commitment to Chicago's children and youth. We also offer special thanks to all of the nominators who took the time to share the truly inspiring stories of this year’s nominees and award recipients. To learn more about the Awards nomination process, please contact katherine.dreher@brightpromises.org.

2020 Awards Nominees:
  • Rita Eileen Wilkinson, on behalf of Kara Teeple, CEO - Lawrence Hall
  • Joseph Williams  - Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club
  • Debbie Frisch - Hello Baby, NFP
  • Meade Palidofsky – Storycather’s Theater
  • Jessica Yavitz - Chicago Fire Football Club 
  • Shelley Bromberek-Lambert - YWCA Metropolitan Chicago
  • Denitra Griffin – Always Giving Back Foundation 
  • Nancy Aardema - Logan Square Neighborhood Association
  • Annie P. Cross - I.C.A.R.E. Ministries
  • Cathy Krieger - Children's Place Association 
  • Darren Powell – Books Over Balls
  • Jack Solomon – Youth Guidance
  • Jahmal Cole – My Block, My Hood, My City
  • Gwyndolyn Siebert Moss – Concordia Place
  • Derrek Hull – Trotter Project
  • Rosa Julia Garcia Rivera – Gads Hill Center
  • Scott Barbeau - UpBeat Music and Arts
  • Jesse Ilhardt –VOCEL
  • Carrie Pullie - Metropolitan Family Services
  • Nadia Howse – nadiashowseofhope