PPAI has announced the recipients of its 2023 Icon Awards – PPAI Hall of Fame inductees Carol D. Aastad, MAS, and Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS; PPAI Distinguished Service Award recipient Roger Burnett, CAS, and PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award recipient Danny Rosin, CAS. These awards celebrate the accomplishments of those who have gone above and beyond in service to the promotional products industry, the Association and their communities.

Recipients of the Association’s most prestigious awards will be recognized at the Chair’s Leadership Dinner at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, on Monday, January 9, 2023, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

The PPAI Hall Of Fame

Celebrating individuals who have demonstrated monumental and selfless efforts and devotion to the promo industry, induction into the PPAI Hall of Fame gives permanent recognition to those whose creative spark and tireless dedication have helped the Association and industry prosper.

Aastad retired from Geiger, where she served as division manager, in 2008. She began her 29-year career in the promotional products industry at Ben Davis Advertising Delaware as a salesperson, before founding her own company, Harlan & Davis, Inc. in 1982. Prior to joining Geiger in 2006, she served as vice president and general manager of Forrester-Smith, Inc.

A frequent volunteer in the industry and her community, Aastad joined the PPAI Board of Directors in 2001 and served as its chair in 2004. While chair, she was part of the original group of women who conceived and championed the creation of the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference. In 2009, Aastad was presented with both the PPAI Woman of Achievement and the PPAI Distinguish Service Awards, and in 2016, she was named a PPAI Fellow.

“I was privileged to work alongside Carol for over a decade,” says Jo-an Lantz, MAS, Geiger president and CEO, and Aastad’s nominator. “Carol is a true leader. She is hard working, empathetic, smart, effective, focused on outcomes, fun, creative, curious and a mentor.

“Eventually Carol retired, only to focus her time and attention on becoming an advocate for children in the foster care environment. This isn’t easy. Helping children, many who have lived a life of neglect, all with uncertainty, is daunting. Carol became passionate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. All of which exemplify the qualities of a PPAI Hall of Famer.”

Sokalski has been a part of the promotional products community since 1981. She joined the industry with ASI as a copywriter, and by the end of her 16-year tenure served as its director of marketing advertising. She then spent another 16 years with Bodek & Rhodes as director of marketing communications. After Bodek & Rhodes’ acquisition in 2014, she founded the Scarlett Marketeer agency to offer creative services to distributors, suppliers and other businesses without an in-house marketing department.

A strong advocate for education within the industry, Sokalski has been a frequent and passionate speaker at PPAI events. She has led numerous volunteer committees and served on the PPAI board in 2001-2005. Sokalski received the PPAI Distinguished Service Award in 2008, the PPAI Woman of Achievement Award in 2018 and was named a PPAI Fellow in 2016.

“For 15-plus years, Mary Ellen was my boss at Bodek and Rhodes and she was not like any other professional I ever met,” says Julie Heller, now of Geiger and Sokalski’s nominator. “She educated the entire company about how different this industry was and I watched her teach both practitioners and volunteers on how to help the industry better understand itself, its buyers, and the art of effective out-of-the-box marketing.

“She was also vigilant about volunteering and actively recruited others to give back as well. She was the pebble that started hundreds of ripples in the volunteer pond for more than 40 years.”

The PPAI Distinguished Service Award

The annual PPAI Distinguished Service Award is presented to Association members who consistently contribute their skills and expertise toward the betterment of the organization. Through volunteer service or by offering their leadership to PPAI, these are members who have generously given the gift of their energy, time and enthusiasm.

Burnett, founder of Social Good Promotions in Sandusky, Ohio, has been an advocate for and volunteer and educator in the promotional products industry for more than a decade. He was a long-time volunteer with the Regional Association Council, a Legislative Education and Action Day participant on Capitol Hill and at the state level in Lansing with L.E.A.D. Local, and a frequent speaker at PPAI and regional events.

Burnett is also a “Founding Chef” of PromoKitchen, a 501c3 non-profit and all-volunteer platform for education and mentorship in the promotional products industry. In 2018, he founded PromoCares, a volunteer initiative to lift up and recognize companies in the promo marketplace that use their businesses for social good. In 2016, Burnett was named a PPAI Fellow and 2018 was recognized as the PPAI RAC Volunteer of the Year Award recipient.

“Roger has been a willing and tireless contributor to initiatives meant to make our marketplace better,
stronger and capable of competing with the best our competition has to offer,” says Rosin, Burnett’s nominator. “In standing up for our efforts to be seen as a worthy marketing investment, he brings passion, creativity and a strong vision to execute on what needs to be done today while keeping a healthy eye on the future.

“His efforts have inspired countless others to action, and his willingness to stay ahead of topics gives us all the opportunity to learn from those efforts.”

PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award Recipient

The PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award, named after the late H. Ted Olson, MAS, PPAI president emeritus, represents what Olson stood for – volunteerism inside and outside of the promotional products industry.

Rosin, co-president and co-owner of Raleigh, North Carolina, distributor Brand Fuel, has worked in the promotional products industry for more than 30 years and in that time has been an active volunteer. He has been a speaker and panelist at numerous industry events, served on several PPAI volunteer committees and sat on the Association’s board in 2017-2021. He is also a PromoKitchen founding chef.

Rosin has lent his energies to several efforts, in and outside the promotional products industry, to improve communities nation-wide. In 2001, he co-founded Band Together NC, a 501c3 volunteer-driven non-profit whose mission is to use live music as a platform for social change. Band Together puts on the Southeast’s largest music event for charity and has so far donated more than $11 million to local causes in the Raleigh-Durham area. In 2019, he became an executive board member of A Place At The Table, a pay-it-forward nonprofit café that provides community and good food for all, regardless of means.

Within the promotional products industry, Rosin is a co-founder and board member of PromoCares, and a co-founder of Reciprocity Road, an industry buyer’s group representing $220 million in spending with a 1.5% rebate going to the Promotional Products Education Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network.

“Danny Rosin is a tireless connector, an experimenter, a dreamer, community leader and entrepreneur,” says Burnett, Rosin’s nominator. “His work has helped countless people and brands realize higher aspirations that will have positive and sustainable impact on both for profit and nonprofit organizations.

“He is a rising-tide-lifts-all-promo-products kind of leader. He is a true force when it comes to mattering and impact. He finds what matters and connect the dots with success through impact through the industry, the staff, the suppliers, the customers – the community.”