by Sarah Achenbach

Did you know that 2017 brings with it an impressive list of milestone birthdays? Girl Scout Cookies, Converse Chuck Taylors, and World Book Encyclopedia all celebrate centennials. This year’s crop of newly-minted 50-year-olds include impressive pop-culture juggernauts such as the Big Mac, Rolling Stone magazine, the Chevy Camaro, and the Beatles’ seminal album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And just imagine where modern-day communication would be without the 25-year-old tech achievements of the .JPEG file format and the text message. Oh, yes, and Wayne’s World turns 25 this year. Party on, Garth.

While Kalix too is proud to share its milestone birthday with quite a list of organizations, companies and artistic achievements, we can’t forget one young man who sparked a global sensation just five years ago. If the name Caine Monroy doesn’t ring a bell, his viral YouTube video and website will.

In 2011, Caine, then nine, spent his summer vacation making an arcade out of cardboard, tape, markers and other recyclables in his dad’s East L.A. auto-parts shop. No specialty camps, no videos, just free time and imagination. Near the end of the summer and after 280 hours of work, his cardboard masterpiece, complete with tickets and prizes and named “Caine’s Arcade,” appropriately, had no customers. He would open his arcade, which took over the front of his dad’s shop, put on his homemade “Caine’s Arcade Staff” t-shirt and wait for people to play his games.

Then Nirwan Mullick, a filmmaker, stopped by to pick up a car handle for his 1996 Corolla.

Intrigued, he bought a “fun pass” – a bargain at 500 turns for $2 – and became Caine’s first customer. Later that fall, Mullick organized a flash mob to come play Caine’s Arcade, and in April 2012, shared the short film he made about Caine on YouTube. What happened next started a movement.

The video had 1 million views in a day, and by the end of the week, Caine and his cardboard creations were on national news and plastered across the social media. Mullick had seed money to found The Imagination Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to children’s creativity around the world. Today, more than 750,000 kids in 80 countries have taken Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge based on Caine’s Arcade and his boundless creativity.

Mullick’s original video has been viewed by 5.6 million and counting and inspired hundreds of videos of other cardboard arcades and creations worldwide, even a working piano made from cardboard, fishing line, recycled pipes and a lot of duct tape. LEGO made its own video of the worldwide phenomenon.

What’s happened to Caine in the past five years? He’s traveled the world giving talks and even gave a TEDx talk hosted by Chelsea Clinton. Mullick’s original efforts to start a scholarship fund for him (the goal was to raise $25,000) have raised more than $200,000 so far. This summer, Caine, now 14, is spending a week at EA Sports learning coding and game design from top game designers. (It’s little surprise that Caine wants to be a game designer.)

How children, educators and parents around the world have embraced Caine’s idea is the true celebration. A year after the video, Mullick wrote, “Kids have used their cardboard arcades to raise tens-of-thousands of dollars for various charities and local causes. Educators have created design thinking challenges and open-source common core aligned curriculum for kids K-12. And the creativity of the kids continues to inspire…I can’t help but imagine how bright the future would look if the creativity of every child was fostered.”

Caine’s Arcade represents a universe of possibility and what can happen when adults let kids combine imagination with resourcefulness. No rules, no set prompts, no specific purpose or expected behavior. Just plenty of recyclables and unfettered creativity.

Happy Birthday, Caine’s Arcade. The next Global Cardboard Challenge begins in September 2017, but you can start celebrating early. This summer, when your kids say they’re bored, hand them a box and a roll of masking tape and step aside.

How has your school and its students embraced design and creativity? Please share your successes in a comment.

Sarah Achenbach is Director of Communications for Kalix Marketing.