Camps & kids | Pacifica kid crowdfunds to pay for summer camp

Two years ago, Cash Ashkinos tried hawking lemonade on a street corner to raise money to pay for summer camp. Turns out lemonade stands are so 20th century.

To get to camp this year, the 12-year-old upped his game, launching an online campaign with the entrepreneurial website to crowdfund tuition (–2/x/9778190#).

It worked. In just two and a half weeks, he raised the cash — more than $2,500 — to help his parents afford Camp Inc., a Jewish sleepover camp near Boulder, Colorado, that emphasizes entrepreneurship, innovation and developing business smarts.

Along the way, Cash’s creative fundraising drew national media attention, with features on, NBC News and eJewish Philanthropy, the latter running its story with the headline, “The next Mark Zuckerberg?”

Cash Ashkinos once sold lemonade to help pay for summer camp, but found that crowdfunding had a quicker, bigger payoff.

Cash may not preside over a Fortune 500 company yet, but he feels pride over his accomplishment.

“It was awesome because I reached my goal,” said Cash, who lives with mom Tanya Schevitz, dad Terry Ashkinos and kid brother Catcher in Pacifica. “It made me feel good because people were donating even though they didn’t know me.”

It wasn’t hard for donors to get to know Cash from his indiegogo website. A veteran mini-filmmaker with his own YouTube channel, Cash created a series of video clips as part of his sales pitch, explaining how and why Camp Inc. was right for him. Many donors, in Jewish tradition, kicked in multiples of $18, or “chai.”

“He’s always thinking about tech and business ideas,” says Schevitz, the national communications and S.F. programs manager for the innovative Jewish nonprofit Reboot. “He has ideas for an algebra app, and he and a friend came up with a new Dungeons & Dragons game. While I’d love for him to run around in the woods, what he prefers is tech camp.”

Cash’s summer plans began to percolate after Camp Inc. director Josh Pierce made a recruiting trip to Cash’s religious school class at San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel. Cash was especially excited about the prospect of a Jewish camp that also featured a real “Shark Tank” experience, in which mock entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to real business professionals.

Kids work in teams to develop their ideas, over time gaining skills they will need down the road in the business world. They also get to hike, swim and climb on the ropes course (it is a camp, after all).

When Cash told his mom about the camp, Schevitz had a difficult time mustering enthusiasm. “My heart sank because I knew it’s a two-week camp in Colorado, something we absolutely cannot afford,” she said.

Even with a partial scholarship, the $2,500 price tag proved out of reach for the family. Then Schevitz took a phone meeting with Pierce.

“I told him how Cash had done a lemonade stand to raise money for another camp two years ago,” Schevitz said. “He suggested an indiegogo campaign.”

The site launched in February with a simple message from Cash:  “I’m 11 years old and I need some help going to camp,” he wrote. He also admitted he sometimes “struggles” with social interactions “and Camp Inc. would help me build confidence and independence as well as the social and leadership skills I need in my goal of becoming an innovator.”

Camp officials were so impressed with Cash’s effort that they pushed the page on the camp’s social media. That’s when the national news came calling.

“The camp loved that someone would do this,” Schevitz recalled. “It shows initiative and innovation. Word got out to the Jewish community and it started spreading.”

Now that Cash has exceeded his goal, he decided not to stop. He intends to keep raising money to help fund scholarships for other potential Camp Inc. campers.

That impulse to help others does not surprise his mom, who adds that Cash loves learning about Judaism in religious school. The Jewish component of Camp Inc. is another selling point, as far as she’s concerned.  “I love that it’s a Jewish camp,” she says.  “It’s his Jewish community that really helped him go to the camp.”

As for Cash’s plans once he gets to Boulder in July, he will have to wait and see. He has a sense of the program parameters, but will hold his business ideas until he gets there.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of arguments,” he predicts about business camp. “That’s what I do best.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.