The Project Pinball Charity is a labor of love for Daniel Spolar. It started with love for the game of pinball. “My children had left home and started their own lives; there was a gap. I reflected back on my past and remembered my love of pinball,” said Spolar. He looked on the Internet and found a thriving underground community of pinball enthusiasts, “pinheads.” Additionally, he discovered where to find pinball machines for himself and his friend and partner, Dave Denholtz. Each partner now has 10 – 12 pinball machines in their own homes and they participate in pinball tournaments.
“It’s not uncommon for pinheads to have sanctioned tournaments in their own homes,” said Spolar. He acquired a unique skill to stay in the game: he repairs pinball machines, an uncommon art.
It is necessary since Spolar and his partner have acquired more than 80 additional pinball machines in the last two years, and a warehouse mezzanine to store them and share the game with friends. They call it the Pinball Asylum and joke that they are the inmates. “Every machine is a unique find,” said Spolar, a Bonita Springs resident and business owner.
“My wife started Project Pinball Charity with a call from Chrissy Brown, Inpatient Oncology/Hematology Unit at Golisano’s Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. They had a donated pinball machine that was in such disrepair that it was unused. She called me to make the repair,” said Spolar.
The heartwarming response from local and internet pinball enthusiasts to come up with the parts, including $1000 in parts from one anonymous donor, let Spolar know he found a mission for his pinball activity and lovers of the game.
Once Spolar repaired the machine at Golisano’s Children’s Hospital, it provided hours of relaxation and release from stress for parents, children, staff and visitors. It was a hit. They found the same stress relief as the majority of pinball enthusiasts — concentrating on the game frees the mind from its other concerns and provides a time of joy, laughter and excitement. What better gift for children and families in hospitals?
The Pinball Asylum is incorporated as a non-profit and can receive donations for Project PinballCharity Group, providing for the needs of children who are hospitalized. Spolar loans pinball machines to fund-raising events that also raise awareness that the game is still alive and well. Friends are invited to private Pinball Asylum games for charity causes.
Part of the thrill with pinball machines is the communication with other enthusiasts across the nation and in other countries. They share information about available pinball machines and activities. The desire to provide a charity purpose is spreading across these groups. They also compete for standing in their organization.
The pinball machine at Golisano’s Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida that Spolar repaired was a memorial gift from parents who lost their child to cancer. Thanks to Project Pinball Charity Group, the once broken machine is now bringing the joy intended to other young children. Below you can view the process Daniel Spolar went through to clean up the Spider-Man machine for the patients of Golisano’s Children’s Hospital.