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Child’s play is serious business. Experts know that the games babies and toddlers play, from make-believe and block-building to rough-and-tumble horseplay, are crucial to their physical, social, and emotional development.


No one knows this better than Debbie Frisch. Raised in an abusive home, she never experienced the joy of carefree play in a safe, nurturing space. Grown up, she struggled to do better as a mom to two daughters and then as a caregiver for the 56 short-term foster children to whom she opened her home. Along the way, she discovered how our society short-changes kids and their parents, especially those in underserved communities.


Debbie decided to do something about it. With the help of family and friends, she launched HelloBaby, the nation's first free-standing, free of charge, drop-in play space for babies, toddlers, and their caregivers.


Nestled in a specially-designed storefront space in a former “play desert” on Chicago’s south side, HelloBaby welcomes families of every background, offering creative, fun, enriching activities from bubble-blowing and finger painting to story-telling and music time. Unexpectedly, it’s also become a place where overworked moms and dads (and grandparents and other caregivers, too) can escape the stresses of solitary child care, make friends, and get access to comfort, advice, and other forms of support. Now a second HelloBaby space is under development—and Debbie and her friends have dreams of many more.


In Hello Baby, Debbie Frisch and Isaac Stone Simonelli tell how this unique community resource came to be, including how Debbie won help from local businesses, forged partnerships with community leaders and organizations, and gradually earned the trust of once-skeptical neighborhood families. It’s a story rich with lessons for other nonprofit leaders—and for anyone who’s ever wondered what they can do to help make our communities into nurturing places where every child can thrive.

HELLO BABY by Debbie Frisch and Isaac Stone Simonelli

Excluding Sales Tax |
  • Paperback  |  6 x 9 inches  |  200 pages

    ISBN-13: 978-1-953943-25-5


    This book is now available for pre-order. It will be shipped on September 17, 2023.

  • Debbie Frisch is a mother, foster mother, spiritual director, volunteer, community activist and philanthropist.


    In 2017, she opened HelloBaby, our nation’s first free-standing, free-of-charge drop-in play space for babies, toddlers and their caregivers. In 2022, Debbie was awarded Champion for Children Award from the Bright Promises Foundation.


    Prior to opening HelloBaby, Debbie was actively involved with many not for profit organizations that serve economically disadvantaged families and children. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, Chicago. Her first volunteer experience was at Christopher House in the daycare and head start programs. She was named their Volunteer of the Year in 2005.


    Debbie’s first board service was for On Your Feet Foundation - an organization that serves birth mothers who have placed children for adoption. She has served as Board President for Adoption Center of Illinois, Chicago Lights, and Geography of Hope. She has also been a Deacon and Elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.


    She was a foster care mother for Adoption Center of Illinois and a respite care provider for Safe Families for Children. Through these two organizations she has had 56 babies and toddlers in care. One of these children, Jayce, came to her for respite care at 6 months old. Since then he became her godson and 10 years later they still see each other regularly.


    Debbie lives in Chicago, Illinois, where she enjoys long lake front walks with her dog Teddy. She loves crafting, knitting, reading, exercise and time outdoors.


    Isaac Stone Simonelli is an award-winning investigative journalist who has covered a myriad of topics from oil and gas industry emissions to domestic extremism and threats to democracy.


    He was a Roy W. Howard fellow at the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting after earning a master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism in December 2021. Previously, he was editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror in Alaska, following his year-long independent project “Dice Travels.” He also served as the managing editor of the Phuket Gazette in Thailand , where he transformed the newsroom into a digital-first publication that focused its resources on enterprise reporting.


    He has written for publications such as Alaska Business magazine, Climbing magazine, and ADVMOTO magazine, and his investigations have been published by organizations such as The Washington Post, MSNBC, Inside Climate News, and the Associated Press.

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