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The Indy Hat: NFL player Ted Karras sells Indy 500-themed cap to benefit charity

Ted Karras wears many hats: Indianapolis native, center and captain of the Cincinnati Bengals, and creator of "The Cincy Hat."

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the best parts about the Indianapolis 500, aside from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, is the different outfits fans wear to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Cathedral alum and current NFL football player Ted Karras took that to a whole new level creating "The Indy Hat." It all began in November 2022.

Ted Karras wears many hats: Indianapolis native, center and captain of the Cincinnati Bengals, and creator of "The Cincy Hat."

"It's really unbelievable how it all took off," Karras said.

A neighbor of his runs a golf supply business. Together, they teamed up to make custom "Cincy Hats." Karras made it upon his arrival to the Bengals simply as a gift to his new teammates. Soon, though, it turned into so much more.

"People wore me down," Karras said. "They wanted these hats. The guys on the team wore them, pictures were taken, and the city of Cincinnati demanded that we sell them."

Never intending to sell them, Karras gave in. He knew exactly where to deliver the profits. His best friend is Matt Renie. Matt's mom, Colleen, is the executive director at local nonprofit Village of Merici.

"It was only natural to make it all for the Village of Merici," Karras said.

Credit: WTHR

"I was watching a podcast of his and he was doing an interview in Cincinnati and talking to a reporter," Colleen Renie recalled. "The reporter says, 'How can we get a hat?', and Ted says, 'Well we're going to sell them, and all of the proceeds are going to the Village of Merici.' I was like, 'What did he just say?'"

The Village of Merici's mission is enabling independent lifestyles for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Housing, services, support, you name it. Karras has been closely involved with the village for eight years now. Him, Matt, and Colleen have teamed up to make a difference. He couldn't imagine a better place for these funds to go.

"It's hard to think of a cause that would be doing more good for their neighbors and their community," Karras said. "It was an easy decision. Whenever you're doing something for the Village, it's easy to know you're doing the right thing."

Since November 2022, when Karras and the Renies began selling the Cincy Hat, $200,000 of profit has gone directly to the Village of Merici.

"It's phenomenal," Renie said. "To have a revenue stream like this that's consistent and bringing in those dollars as a fundraiser is a unique opportunity for us to have to advance our project and our mission."

Renie said nonprofits having a secondary revenue stream is critical. Once the NFL season was over, the trio wanted to continue the momentum for the Village. What better opportunity than the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and a race-themed hat?

"Matt and Ted came up with the idea of getting some Indy gear together and seeing what we could do," Renie said. "Matt and Ted put their ideas together, worked with a local designer for the logo, and away we went."

"We wanted to give a nod to our hometown," Karras said. "This is this year's Indy Hat, there will be new art next year. We're going to try and make this a tradition," Karras explained. "We're just going to try and keep adding to the project one skew at a time and make this a long-time income for the Village."

Not just hats, though. T-shirts and polos are also available for sale here. The trio will be set up around the track in the days leading up to the Indy 500 selling, as well at the Wilcox Engineering building at the corner of 16th Street and Main Street in Speedway. 100% of proceeds go to the Village of Merici, furthering the mission and instilling pride in all involved.

"It's an honor to see him grow and become such a champion for those with disabilities," Renie said, "I think he has truly appreciated the gifts he has and wanting to share those. It's so exciting."

"It's so crazy how many people come up to me with a story of how this could affect their life positively, their family's life, or someone they know," Karras concluded. "I'm honored to be a part of the Village of Merici. I'm really excited for the race. This is May here in Indy. Please get your Indy Hat at TheIndyHat.com!"

These funds are going to expand the Village to the tune of 77 more units, two new sites, and providing more services to adults with disabilities. Residents actually help with packaging and shipping all Indy and Cincy gear. 

The Renies say this is critical for nonprofits. They couldn't be happier to use the Indianapolis 500 to sell a ton of gear and further the mission.

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