In a working class neighborhood of east Los Angeles, there is an auto parts store which has become famous.
“People fly in from all around the world,” says owner George Monroy. “They take taxis here.”
The visitors are not coming for the auto parts. They’re here to play in an arcade created by Monroy’s son.
In the summer of 2011, when Caine Monroy was nine, he won a miniature basketball hoop from playing an arcade game. George says Caine decided to create his own arcade game by taping the hoop to a cardboard box.
“He was trying to get all the customers to play his basketball game,” George says. “He didn’t have very much luck with that, so he started making the game better. He kept building even though he didn’t have any customers.”
It took three months for Caine to get his first customer, when Nirvan Mullick showed up on the last day of summer.
“I needed a door handle for my ‘96 [Toyota] Corolla,” he remembers, “and just rolled into this auto parts store.”
That’s how Mullick became Caine’s first official customer.
“When I scored a point, he would crawl into the box and push out tickets from inside the box,” Millick says. “That’s the point when my heart kind of stopped, and I was brought back to when I was nine and just reminded of being a kid.”
Mullick, who also happens to be a filmmaker, was inspired to make a short film on Caine’s Arcade. He posted it on the Internet and set up a scholarship fund for Caine with the goal of raising $25,000.
“The first day the film was online it raised over $60,000, got over a million views,” Mullick says. “After five days it was $152,000 raised.”
The film about Caine’s arcade also inspired the Imagination Foundation, an organization created to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world.
As part of the Imagination Foundation’s first-annual Global Cardboard Challenge, children from Sri Lanka to Singapore, and even Dubai, have built cardboard creations inspired by Caine.
An English-speaking mothers group in Dubai invited children to build cardboard creations to share at a party. Six-year-old Maeve Butler made a castle and took it to the party.
“You can put on funny things on, like a mask or some funny mustache glasses and then you got to take a picture on the fake TV made out of cardboard,” Mauve said.
As for young Caine Monroy? He’s surprised at how interest has spread.
“It’s kind of cool I inspired people,” he says.
Caine used to speak with a stutter. He doesn’t anymore. His father says his son has also changed in other ways over the last year.
“He’s not that shy little kid he was a year ago,” George says. “He has changed 100 percent. He does a lot better in school. He has a lot more confidence.”
Caine’s Arcade is opened almost every weekend for anyone who wants to stop by and play.
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