Posted on 1/21/2013 7:05 PM by Grace Jeffers

Imagination knows no bounds. The adage was never more true than in the story of Caine Monroy and his Cardboard Arcade.

Caine Monroy in his cardboard arcade, at his dad's auto parts store in East Los Angeles

It all started when LA resident Nirvan Mullick needed a new door handle for his car. He walked into his local auto parts store, only to find that the store owner’s son, nine-year-old Caine, in the most entrepreneurial of moves, had created an arcade by the front desk constructed completely of recycled cardboard and repurposed household objects. Mullick was entranced, and decided to make a short documentary about Caine and his creative entertainment center. To film as part of the documentary, he posted a Facebook event for people to come to the arcade. Little did he realize the overwhelming response and interest he would prompt. There was a flash mob, nationwide media coverage, and Caine became an instant celebrity.

Really, what Mullick (and ultimately the whole nation) was so charmed and inspired by was the sheer creativity. Recycling is not a chore when you approach it with imagination. Cardboard can become anything you want it to be, if you just let yourself play.

The Global Cardboard Challenge at the American School in Tokyo, Japan

In the wake of the success of the arcade and documentary, Nirvan Mullick  founded the non-profit the Imagination Foundation, whose role is to foster creativity in children around the world. Just this past October, the foundation sponsored the first ever Global Cardboard Challenge. There are no rules to the challenge, people are just invited to make “awesome” things, fun things, and make magic out of the most humble and ubiquitous of recycled materials. More than 40 countries hosted 270+ separate events around the theme of recycling, turning trash into treasure.

You can watch it the original short documentary film on YouTube:  The follow up film, made about a year later and describing the Global Cardboard Challenge, can be found here:

The Challenge is not just for kids, but for anyone who is young at heart. We should all be inspired to see the fun in the materials around us!

All images courtesy the Imagination Foundation