(WYTV) – This weekend, players across the NFL will be rocking custom cleats for causes of their choice. If you look closely at the feet of number 46 for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, you’ll notice a special logo. The former Valley native is choosing to honor the Rich Center for Autism and his close friend once he hits the field.
True friendship has no boundaries, much like autism. Ross Matiscik and Chris Marchionda have been friends since they were kids, no matter their differences.
“Chris is awesome. He’s a joy to be around and it’s an absolute pleasure to wear his name on my cleats this Sunday,” Matiscik said.
Matiscik moved to Dallas in 2005 and is now a long snapper for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two families never lost touch.
“This summer, they came down as a family and visited us,” Matiscik said.
That’s when a special moment was caught on camera. Marchionda loves band-aids and made sure his buddy Matiscik was patched up and good to go.
The moment also sparked an idea for week 13 in the NFL. Players get to pick a non-profit they’re passionate about and design custom cleats for the game. So in a group text…
“I let them know I was going to do the Rich Center for Autism,” Matiscik said.
The cleats are blue with the Rich Center logo, so you can’t miss them. He also made sure Marchionda’s name was on them. Then there’s his favorite part…
“You know, he loves band-aids so I said you gotta throw band-aids on them somewhere and he [the artist] put them right on the toe. There’s band-aids on both of them,” Matiscik said.
“Just to see our brother’s name on there represented by such a true friend is very special to us and we’re very excited to see that,” said Nico Marchionda, Chris’ brother.
For 25 years, the Rich Center has been working to spread awareness through education and treatment of autism across the Valley. It was built in honor of Marchionda’s late aunt and uncle, Paula and Anthony Rich. He was in the first class.
This small gesture from Matiscik means the world to Marchionda and his family.
“There’s a statistic that came out recently, 1 in every 44 children have autism. So to get this kind of recognition not just for the Rich Center but autism in general is huge,” said Anthony Marchionda, Chris’ brother.
“So on TV, on fourth down, if you see me out there in some light blue cleats with some band-aids on them, just know they’re for Chris,” Matiscik said.
Matiscik says Marchionda has inspired his passion and dedication to raise awareness for autism. By wearing these cleats on Sunday, he hopes it inspires people watching to donate to the center and continue to get involved in order for the Rich Center to continue to touch the lives of those living with autism in the Valley and beyond.
After Matiscik is done wearing his cleats on Sunday, he has the option to put them up for bid. All of the money raised will go directly to the Rich Center for Autism.