To commemorate Hispanics in Philanthropy’s 33rd year, we honored 33 Latino leaders who inspire as our 2017 HIPGivers. Read HIPGiver Caine Monroy’s story below.
The story of this year’s youngest HIPGiver, 14-year-old Caine Monroy, begins with a cardboard box.
Where adults may see a disposable storage container, destined to be next week’s recycling, imaginative children see possibility. Caine was an eight-year-old arcade-lover spending his 2011 summer vacation hanging out at his dad’s East L.A. auto shop. Instead of seeing a cardboard box, he saw a business opportunity.
Caine invested his time that summer in building a fully working arcade, complete with a basketball hoop and claw machine—all out of cardboard boxes. A budding entrepreneur with a creative streak, Caine charged $1 for two plays or $2 for the “fun pass,” which allowed 500 plays.
Following that summer, at the age of nine, he shot to internet stardom thanks to a short documentary, “Caine’s Arcade.” The video was produced by his first customer, Nirvan Mullick, who happened to be a videographer. Mullick, who stopped by the shop for a car door handle, was blown away by the expansive and intricate cardboard arcade. He opted for the “fun pass.”
Mullick was so impressed, that he organized a “flash mob” of hundreds of strangers to surprise Caine, making his day by providing a steady stream of paying customers eager to try out his games. Mullick documented the experience and uploaded the resulting video, “Caine’s Arcade,” to YouTube in 2012, which achieved “viral” status by quickly surpassing over two million views.
Committed to putting his unexpected fame to good use, the Imagination Foundation was established. The foundation’s mission is, in part, to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world. Its flagship program is the Global Cardboard Challenge, which invites kids to create their own cardboard inventions. Hundreds of thousands of children have participated since its inception in 2012, from Switzerland to Sri Lanka.
Four years later, “Caine’s Arcade” has been viewed over 10 million times. He has appeared twice on the Yahoo! homepage and has been written up by Forbes five times. Caine has retired from running the arcade, and is now entering high school. However, he remains involved with the foundation and the resulting movement to promote creativity. “Everybody should reach their full potential and be creative with their surroundings,” he said of his efforts to inspire others. He attributes his generosity to his grandfather having taught him at a very young age “that it is better to give than to take.”
Fans around the world have high expectations for Caine’s future. They have collectively donated over $240,000 to cover his college expenses through a crowdfunding effort organized by Mullick. For now, though, his priorities are to follow his father’s advice to stay humble, and to keep inspiring kids to be creative and reach their goals.
Feeling inspired? Read fellow HIPGiver Luis A. Miranda Jr.’s story and let the uplifting vibes continue!