The power of the pinball machine: Charity works to bring games to children’s hospitals

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Pinball machines are making a comeback. And now they’re making their way into hospitals thanks to a charity dedicated to helping relieve stress for young patients in treatment.

Dan Spolar is the Senior Director and Founder of Pinball Project. He said he still enjoys the game he grew up playing.

“As soon as you dip the ball, it’s a world under the glass. It just comes to life, ”he said. “There is nothing else that exists while you are playing pinball.”

He makes sure the machines are in children’s hospitals.

“It just has a big therapeutic benefit,” he said.

The idea for Project Pinball, the charity he founded 10 years ago, was born out of personal experience. While visiting a local hospital, Spolar noticed a broken pinball machine in a corner. He made it his mission to get it going again.

“Finding this machine in the children’s hospital, we discovered the power that a machine like this could give to patients, siblings, families, doctors, nurses, life administrators. of the child, ”he said. “We had seen everyone gathered around this machine.

There were 55 donations and it counts. He’s still on a roll. Chicago is the first stop on a five-city tour to deliver the units, free of charge, to children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses.

Jennie Ott is Director of Children’s Life and Education at Comer Children’s Hospital.

“We know that children need more than medical treatment,” she said. “We know they need it even more now in the event of a pandemic. … I have seen children who got down in their wheelchairs and who will see the pinball machine and kind of light up.

For years, it was an Elvis-themed pinball machine that entertained patients at South Side Hospital. Now, thanks to Project Pinball, it’s the Beatles taking a walk in the teenage living room.

“Play is the cornerstone of children’s development and growth and it’s how children experience the world,” said Ott. “And I think that’s the beauty of the new pinball machine.”

“You can’t just sit on a couch and play pinball,” Spolar said. “You have to stand in front of the machine. And it’s very physical. It has excellent real-time hand-eye coordination. … The only benefit we know these machines provide pleases me.

Project Pinball doesn’t just buy the machines, the organization provides lifelong maintenance to each unit.


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