Pinball is everywhere in Portland, though not necessarily for everyone. If you're under 21, it's possible you've never even seen one of the 700-plus machines spread throughout the city that mostly sit sequestered away in bars and age-restricted arcades.
Related: Yes, Portland Has More Pinball Machines Than New York and Los Angeles
Pinball Outreach Project is out to change that. Founded by Nicole Anne Reik, a former accountant and onetime ranked player, the nonprofit's goal isn't just to introduce the primitive joys of flipper-smashing to a younger generation, but to explore the game's altruistic potential.
"She wanted to marry her love of pinball with doing more for the community," says Greg Dunlap, Reik's husband and a member of the POP board.
Operating out of a tiny headquarters on Northeast 42nd Avenue—which also doubles as an all-ages arcade—the organization loans machines to children's hospitals and hosts events for the Children's Cancer Association. It's even researched pinball as a form of autism therapy. "It's not as much about the pinball as the group interactions," Dunlap says.
The POP arcade offers free play for kids under 13, with a mix of old-school predigital machines and newer, brighter models. If nothing else, at least it encourages children to look up from their phones and engage in a form of entertainment even their parents understand.
"Sometimes, you get kids in here and their eyes light up," Dunlap says. "And when they get into it, it's something that can bond across generations."
Best of Portland 2017 This Year, More Than Ever, It's Important to Stop and Take Note of Everything That Makes Portland What It Is Here are the Winners of the Best of Portland Readers' Poll 2017 Here are the Things WW Declared "The Best" in the Last 12 Months Inside Mall 205, You'll Find Oregon's Last Remaining Magic Shop Portland's Raging Grannies Have Been Protesting Since the 1960s, And You Do Not Want to Mess With Them A Vancouver Man Bought Naked Falls Swimming Hole, So He Could Re-Open It to the Public Rodney Scott Puts On Portland's Greatest Indie Firework Show Cabel Sasser Found a McDonalds Mural That Led Him to Uncover a Secret Collection of Art Two College Students Started An Organization to Provide Bras and Underwear to Homeless Women Jim Hipsher Is Portland's Greatest Live Book of Poetry These Two Women Make Showing Up for Jury Duty A Lot Less Terrible On Northeast Broadway, You Can Learn Boxing From Two-Time World Champ Molly "Fearless" McConnell Portland Urban Golf Makes the Entire Changing City Its Ever-Evolving Personal Golf Course Did You Know You Can Play a 9-Hole Portland-Themed Mini-Golf Course? Seven Years Ago, New Trail Blazer Caleb Swanigan Was 360 Pounds and Living in Homeless Shelters Each Week, a Group Goes to Laurelhurst Park to Throw Axes Through the Air—And They're Really Good Portland Now Has a Nonprofit That Gives Kids Access to Free Pinball Marathon Taverna Hosts Portland's Best Late-Night Raffle, Giving Away T-Shirts and 100-Level Blazers Tickets The City of Portland Made a Sign Reading "Heartbreak Dead Ahead" There's a Secret, Profit-Free Bookstore "Forest" on Division Street You Can Get a Pre-Addressed Letter to Trump from Paymaster Lounge's Vending Machine A Local Business Totally Trolled Willamette Week—And It Was Awesome The ACLU of Oregon Has Emerged as Portland's Most Consistent Free-Speech Fundamentalists Division Street's Oregon Theater Is Portland's Greatest NSFW Twitter Account There's a Library in Vancouver Full of Hundreds of Books That Have Never Been Published, And Never Will Be Alberta Street's American Legion Post 134 Went Rogue—Inviting Homeless In and Hosting LGBTQ Nights Beaverton's Spectra Gymnastics Provides Play Spaces for Kids on the Autism Spectrum There's a Hidden, Underground Sculpture Inside the Standard Insurance Center in Downtown Portland One of the Oldest Retail Businesses in the City is a 127-Year-Old Woman-Owned Costume Shop—Now, It's in Danger of Closing In the Portland Area's Wealthiest Neighborhood Lies a Hidden, Public Scottish Garden As Large as the Japanese Garden The Zymoglyphic Museum is a Self-Contained World of Rogue Taxidermy and Steampunk Every Sunday, Portland Hosts a Real-Life "Fast and the Furious" Portland's Best Daycaction is a Cheap Flight to Pendleton, Where the Cowboys Still Walk The Streets Oregon City's Tim Kovar Is one of the Nation's Foremost Tree-Climbing Experts Hero Punk Stole the Satyricon Sign and Sold it to VooDoo Doughnut Owner in Exchange for Lifetime Doughnuts High School Junior Won a Major Science Competition in the World By Investigating Where Portland's Fish Went Who Do You Call When Your Goat Is Throwing Up? Portland's Go-To Goat Doctor, Of Course Meet the Portland Poodle Who Dresses Better Than You Every Saturday, A Train Runs Through Oaks Bottom, Making Birdwatching Actually Fun Right Now, Three Dogs Living at a Southeast Portland Dispensary Are High on CBD Dog Treats Feeling Sad Lately? Snuggle Up to One of Portland's Therapy Bunnies Pet Barn Will Watch Your Boa Constrictor While You're Out of Town, But Not Your Dog In the '90s, Two Portland Teenagers Aired Old WWF Matches. Now, They Have a Treasure Trove of Wrestling Archives Portland Science Rapper Coma Niddy Has the Best Rhymes About Black Holes You've Ever Heard There is a Secret Willamette River Bridge Most Portlanders Have Forgotten Exists Hero Portland Man Built an 8-Foot Tall Multnomah Falls Out of LEGOs There's An Alley in North Portland Where Robots Will Call Out To You Daddy Mojo's Has the Finest Gallery of Signed Celebrity Memorabilia of Any Bar in Portland Portland's Black Book Guitars Owner Has Tracked Down Guitars from Elliot Smith and Kurt Cobain Thank God for the Los Cactus Food Cart, Which, For 14 Years Has Fed Junkyard Customers for Cheap Two Portlanders Created a Willy Wonka-Style Edible Forest Near Milwaukie Portland's Best Bagelmaker Was Saved By Someone in Line at WinCo—Now, He's Repaying Strangers' Kindness You and Your Friends Can Drink for Free for an Hour on Your Birthday at This Portland Bar The Portland-Area Finally Has Hong Kong-Style Ice Cream Bubble Waffles Yes, There Is a Place in Portland Where You Can Try Witches' Brews and Heal Yourself with a Fire Pit Portland's Best Fritters Come From Donut Queen on 58th and East Burnside When a Pro-Trump Rally Came to Portland, a Good Samaritan Helped Calm the Tension By Handing Out Free Weed If You Haven't Noticed Yet, the Trail Blazers Twitter Account is on Fire The New Market of Choice On Belmont Has The Very Best Grocery Store Beer Selections We've Ever Seen Yes, There a Secret Underground Bowling Alley in the Center of Portland When Portland Saw Snowstorms, the National Weather Service Twitter Became Our 24/7 Therapist