INDIANAPOLIS – An NFL player from Indianapolis is hard at work raising money and awareness to help adults with disabilities live independent lives.

Cincinnati Bengals Center Ted Karras is from Indianapolis and launched a series of hats and clothing all benefiting a local community for adults with developmental disabilities.

Thousands of hats continue to ship all across the country with the same special “Cincy” marking; a design that caught the eye of many as soon as Karras joined the Bengals in 2022.

“The reaction was immediate,” Karras told FOX59/CBS4. “I wore the hat in on the first day, everyone wanted to know where I got it, and it kind of just went from there.”

A fun custom hat quickly turned into a mission; a mission that now involves brand new “Indy” gear just in time for the greatest spectacle in racing.

“We love the fact that hats can not only fundraise but raise awareness,” Karras said.

The project has raised close to $400,000 for the Village of Merici so far, which is a non-profit helping adults with disabilities live independent lives right here in the NFL player’s hometown.

“Going over there is like getting a beam of light and good energy and you know it’s a good place,” Karras said.

The Village said the funds have been a big help.

“It’s been huge for the Village of Merici,” said Karras’ lifelong friend Matt Renie, whose mother runs the Village of Merici. “I think more than anything, obviously the dollars and cents are critical. The Village of Merici relies on public and private funding to be able to serve the folks in its community, but also what’s crucial is it started a conversation.”

Karras said the project is very personal to him.

“I have a family history of autism as well, so I really do see how this need is underserved in our state and across the country,” he said.

The money will help the organization expand. It has also given residents a fun job to do.

“It’s very fun, yes,” said resident Steve Mailloux. “We put them in boxes and stuff and then we ship them out. And for people who need them.”

Many residents are now thrilled to be a part of the mission and get to meet the man behind it all.

“Ted is a great guy,” Mailloux exclaimed.

Karras said it has been an honor to be a part of a bigger cause.

“I’m grateful to have played in the NFL for so long,” he said. “And I never want to lose perspective of real life and what people are feeling and what people’s needs are.”

Karras said he hopes his project continues to be a revenue stream for the Village for many years to come.

If you are interested in “The Indy Hat,” you can click here. If you are interested in the “The Cincy Hat,” click here.