Cardboard refrigerator boxes make perfect rocket ships. Or trains. Or Indy cars. When you’re young those big, brown, bendable, cut-able, blank canvases—which are just begging for illustration—are an unbeatable source for creativity. Thinking about and outside the cardboard box, Cherry Creek Schools Foundation brought award-winning filmmaker and digital strategist Nirvan Mullick to its 20th Annual Foundation Luncheon to raise awareness about the role of creativity in the world.

Two years ago Mullick created the short digital film titled CAINE’S ARCADE. It’s the story of a boy who created an elaborate arcade from recycled cardboard boxes. Going viral, it’s blossomed into a movement to foster creativity in kids.

Cherry Creek Schools took Mullick’s message to heart and invited its student to put together creations using cardboard and recycled materials. A sculpture garden of student work stood outside the luncheon dining room. There was a working piano, patron-packed miniature Cowboys stadium, windmill golf, fish tank and snack machine. Raime Leeby-Muhle of Arrow Electronics explained why the company chose to sponsor Cherry Creek’s Cardboard Challenge: “We want to foster innovation in the classroom.” The Challenge attracted students from kindergarten through high school. The local winners were Gavin  Bradshaw in the K-2nd grade division for Snack Machine, Hannah Jenkins in the 3rd-5th division for Piano and Angie Cave for Rude Goldberg Machine, Joshua Hojnowski in the Middle School division for Cowboy football stadium and Andy Mills in the High School division for Windmill Golf.

The luncheon was also an opportunity to recognize a variety of award winners. Catherine Canny Educator Advocate Award Honoree Jim McDermott turned the attention from himself to the crowd of 575 attendees when he said, “You understand the importance in the wider community and the need to inspire students to think, learn, achieve and care.” It was a special thrill this year, as Dr. Catherine Canny was in the audience.

Cherry Creek School Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull put numbers around his words of praise to everyone at the luncheon.

“On behalf of the 54,226 students in 59 schools and seven programs that are part of the Cherry Creek School District, I thank you. ”

Cherry Creek School Foundation Board President Leslie Ginsburg was happy to have the chance to share about the 2014 Champions of Education Honoree EKS&H. The accounting company is built on a culture of serving others and building trust. The firm lives out its philosophy, as it has been a longtime supporter of the Foundation.

“Their service to the non-profit community is a reflection of their company values,” said Leslie Ginsburg.

EKS&H CEO Bob Hottman graciously put the honors back on the audience.

“As a firm, we think education is something that never stops. Giving a child is an education is critical. We are happy to be honored, but the real heroes are all of you for all you do for the Foundation. I think all of you are the champions.”

After experiencing tremendous curiosity and support from around the world, Mullick launched the Imagination Foundation. Its mission is to raise a new generation of innovators and problem solvers who have the tools they need to build the world they imagine. In his address, Mullick explained that the “most magical thing about all of this is that it inspired kids to play. They put down their Xboxes.”  From the look and sounds of today, Cherry Creek Schools Foundation is doing its part in putting creativity at the core of its students learning experience.