When the perfect moment presents itself, what will you do? Will you let yourself embrace it or let it pass? If you open your arms and take it in, what then?


Nirvan Mullick, photo from the website

Two years ago Nirvan Mullick, a struggling filmmaker, encountered a perfect moment and it changed his life. When I wrote about his experience, I described a moment of serendipity that blossomed into an inspiring story about a boy and his dream, captured in a lovely video that Nirvan created. Now that story has grown in ways unimaginable back then.


Caine Monroy, photo from the website

Here’s how it began: needing a door handle for his car, Nirvan drove to East LA in search of an auto parts store. He ended up at George Monroy’s shop and discovered there George’s nine-year-old son, Caine.

Caine had spent many hours hanging out at his father’s store, constructing an elaborate arcade from the discarded cardboard boxes he found there. Seeing what Caine had created from his imagination was simply amazing. Nirvan could see how much thought, care and creativity Caine put into his arcade, so he just had to stop and play and, in the process, bonded with Caine and his fanciful creation. It was a perfect moment.


Caine’s Arcade, photo from the website

To celebrate  Caine’s arcade and invite others to enjoy it, he launched a flash mob to come, play and cheer Caine on – all captured with Nirvan’s camera. His video, Caine’s Arcade, quickly went viral with over 1 million views just the first day.


Flash mob at Caine’s Arcade, from the website

This probably sounds familiar to you – Caine’s Arcade was an Internet sensation and the story reached TV news stations around the country. I wrote about it in 2012 as did scores of other bloggers and journalists. But as I recently discovered, that was just the first part of the story.

Here’s the original video about Caine’s arcade.

Caine’s Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Besides bringing customers to play Caine’s arcade, Nirvan set up a scholarship fund – at this point he’s raised over $240,000 for Caine’s education. But something else happened as well.


Caine with LA Mayor Villaraigosa, from the website


Caine held by Nirvan, Caine’s dad on the right, from the website


Some fans of Caine’s Arcade, from the website

In Huffington Post, Nirvan describes the response to the video:

A community of over 130,000 people connected to Caine’s Arcade on Facebook, and parents started to share photos of new cardboard games that their kids made after watching the film.

It quickly became clear that there were kids like Caine in every community around the world, and the question became: What can we do to foster their creativity as well?


Nirvan and Caine, from the website

Two days after posting the film, we decided to try and start a nonprofit to foster the creativity and entrepreneurship of more kids. The Goldhirsh Foundation believed in our mission, and gave us a $250,000 startup grant to form what has become the Imagination Foundation — this all happened just 5 days after the film went viral. The timely financial support combined with the viral grassroots support of parents and educators, allowed us to transform the momentum of Caine’s Arcade into something that has continued to grow.


from the website

Nirvan created the Imagination Foundation to “foster creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world.” The Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge and Imagination Chapters have been embraced by children, parents and teachers from all over the globe.

Nirvan, from Huffington Post:

For me, the growth of the Cardboard Challenge is more meaningful than the viral success of the film. It represents more than a passive view; there are thousands of volunteers coming together to organize events for kids around the world.


Cardboard Challenge, from the website


Cardboard Challenge, from the website

Kids have used their cardboard arcades to raise tens-of-thousands of dollars for various charities and local causes. Educators have created design thinking challenges and open-source common core aligned curriculum for kids K-12. And the creativity of the kids continues to inspire.

Nirvan’s second video fills in the details:

Caine’s Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

How is Caine doing now? Nirvan:

Caine is now 11 and is in middle school. He is doing great!

The impact on Caine has been profound. Caine’s dad told me that before the film, Caine was behind in reading and that his school considered him “slow” and wanted to hold him back a year. After the film, Caine became a poster child for gifted children everywhere — his grades improved and he even stopped stuttering. Caine began to refer to himself as an engineer and a game designer.


Caine age 11, with Nirvan and his dad

Caine is still a regular kid who loves to work on his bike, play basketball and build things. On his 11th birthday, Caine officially “retired” from running his arcade to focus on middle school and his next big dream — starting a bike shop.

I’d like to return to the questions I asked at the beginning of this post. While Nirvan and Caine’s story has all the elements of a fairytale, there’s something there for us too. Those perfect moments are rare, if we keep our eyes open to the possibilities we’ll be able to recognize them when they appear. The challenge will be to act on them and follow through. So, with Nirvan and Caine as our inspirational guides, the take away is this: when opportunity knocks, open the door.


photo from big Ideas Fest website

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