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Ted Karras represents his friends at Village of Merici for My Cause My Cleats

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There is a set of football fans in Indianapolis who will be conflicted on Dec. 17. The Patriots will be in town facing the Colts, and while it should be a simple case of rooting for the home team, Village of Merici residents have a vested interest in a certain Patriots player: Ted Karras.

Karras is a frequent visitor at Village of Merici, a residential supported living community for adults with developmental disabilities, allowing them to live independently with access to services and social programs. For many, Karras is a friend.

When Karras steps onto the field on for the Patriots Monday Night Football game against the Bills, he will be representing his friends at Village of Merici on his cleats.

My Cause My Cleats is an NFL initiative that allows players, coaches and staff to represent organizations that matter the most to them through customized cleats. After Week 13, all of the cleats will be available to buy through NFL Auction with all proceeds going to the respective non-profits.

A family friend, Colleen Renie, started Village of Merici after receiving a grant. Karras has been involved from the jump, though his choice to represent Village Merici for My Cause My Cleats was a surprise to Renie. With family members living with autism, Karras knows that once someone ages out of the school system, governmental support for those with developmental disabilities becomes essentially non-existent.

Something like Village of Merici allows people to live independently in a supportive community.

"I don't know if there are many facilities like this where it's completely independent living," Karras said. "Everyone gets to feel independence in a safe environment. It's very safe, which is a big deal to me too. We're [not just] throwing these people in an apartment. This is structured and they do such a great job."

Residents pay their own rent at reduced rates. There are jobs and social programing with staff on hand to assist, but residents are fully in control of their lives.

"It's a very good cause, and it's one that's not talked about enough, especially as we tend to forget people with developmental disabilities after the age of 18. The government does when they're done with public school," Karras said. "We have to find a place for them to fit into society because they're very capable and willing, but if there's not an avenue for it, it's not going to happen just naturally."

Residences like Village of Merici allow occupants to thrive in a safe environment. Many adults with developmental disabilities rely on their parents for housing, transportation and other logistics, and as those parents age, care can become more difficult.

Instead, residents and their families have a warm environment and a support system. Karras said there's even been a wedding between two residents who met there.

"It's a great little community," he said. "It's a huge source of joy for me and for the villagers and for these families. There's a lot of parties and gatherings. It's such a community. It's a very coveted position to get into, so as many rooms as we can get, we want to get there."

Though Village of Merici is an Indianapolis based organization, Karras is bringing it to a national stage when he wears his cleats during Monday Night Football. It is not something he takes lightly.

"It's going to mean a lot," Karras said. "I just want to perform well, as always, but anything I can do to raise money and awareness. Organizations like this need to be financed. They're expanding. They just bought a new building in Carmel, Ind. We have a ridiculous waitlist, so we're trying to catch up with the number of people that need this. Whatever I can do to bring awareness and raise funds."

Over the years Karras has spent visiting Village of Merici, he said he's heard countless times how much being there has helped the residents grow.

"They talk about how their lives change when they can have their own place and be an adult, being a community where they're treated as an adult and have their peers," Karras said. "I think it just brings a better life."

You can check out Karras's, as well as the rest of the participating Patriots, cleats in the gallery below.

For the sixth straight season, the New England Patriots are participating in the NFL's 'My Cause My Cleats' campaign, which gives both players and coaches the opportunity to wear cleats that are designed to promote a cause important to them. Here's a look at the Patriots' custom cleats.

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