Young Heroes

Caine Monroy

by David Kelly

Caine Monroy at work ( (Nirvan Mullick))
Caine Monroy at work ( (Nirvan Mullick))

Caine Monroy is not afraid of hard work. The 9-year-old East Los Angeles resident had a dream, to build his own arcade business out of the discarded cardboard boxes in his father's small auto parts shop. It took him a year to bring his dream to life, averaging about one game per month. "I'd work on them on Saturdays," he said.



A shy boy with a sweet smile and an exuberant imagination, Caine had little trouble devising his homespun games, making displays for his prizes, or hand labeling paper lunch gift bags to hold the prizes. The challenge lay in getting customers. His father's business had struggled in the post-recession economy, and received little foot traffic.


It was a unique stroke of luck that brought filmmaker Nirvan Mullick to the store, in search of used parts for his '96 Corolla. He was surprised to find a cardboard arcade at the front of the shop, along with a precocious young entrepreneur. Mullick asked Caine how the arcade worked, and was told that for $1 he could get two turns, or for $2 he could get a Fun Pass worth 500 turns. Mullick purchased the Fun Pass.


Quickly recognizing the passion of a fellow creative, Mullick was so impressed with Caine's work that he made a short documentary film about him, Caine's Arcade. The end result would dramatically change both of their lives, for the better.


After premiering the film at DIY Days, Mullick posted his short online, and it went viral in a big way. The 11-minute film received over 3.5 million views on Vimeo and YouTube in just four days. Hundreds of online articles about the video followed, leading to television stories about the cardboard arcade by Fox, NBC and CNN. Flashmobs crowded for a chance to visit the Arcade.


Mullick had started a scholarship fund for Caine in conjunction with the film's release, with an initial goal of raising $25,000 to finance his education. The first day the film was posted, over $60,000 was raised. A week later, Mullick and his producers received a matching dollar-for-dollar seed funding grant of $250,000 from the Goldhirsh Foundation to help start the Caine's Arcade Imagination Foundation, with a mission of supporting the education and creative work innovative kids. At present they have raised over $216,000, with their target goal clearly in sight.


Meanwhile, Caine has become a celebrity and inspiration to kids around the world. Teachers have been showing Caine's Arcade in classrooms around the world, inspiring D.I.Y. creations from students that range from cardboard bubble gum machines to a photocopier with a little person inside that draws whatever is laid on top of it.


In honor of Caine's achievements, Mullick's Imagination Foundation is now launching the first ever Global Cardboard Challenge, inviting the world to "to build anything awesome out of cardboard, recycled materials, and imagination." Mullick and his staff are currently busy encouraging young people and schools around the world to organize and build original works for the event. On October 6th, the young artists' friends, family, co-workers and community members will come out to play at local events celebrating the creativity and imagination of kids around the world. Participants will be encouraged to raise money for charity at these events, paying forward their passion and hard work.


As for Caine, he continues to balance his commitments with the simple joys of running his own business. Though his work is sometimes interrupted by media interviews, requests to attend various events and homework, Caine's Cardboard Arcade remains open most weekends and sometimes during the summer on weekdays. Customers are always welcome.





Page created on 7/29/2014 3:00:30 PM

Last edited 8/19/2018 2:55:27 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Caine's Arcade the film - Click to see the documentary short, Caine's Arcade.
Caine's Arcade official website - Click to learn more about Caine and contribute to his scholarship fund.
The Imagination Foundation - Click to participate in The Cardboard Challenge and learn more about the Imagination Foundation.

Author Info

Haz clic aquí para leer la historia sobre Caine Monroy en español

Click here to listen to the Caine Monroy story

In honor of Caine's Arcade, Filmmaker, Nirvan Mullick's Imagination Foundation launched a global initiative to inspire like minded creativity. Find out more at