GiGi’s Playhouse recognized by NFL’s ‘My Cause, My Cleats’

Published: Dec. 12, 2021 at 11:22 PM CST
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MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - A Quad Cities resource for people with down syndrome, along with an 8-year-old from Geneseo, received national recognition on the gridiron this season.

Since 2016 the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative lets players from all 32 teams bring awareness to different causes and organizations. This year, Dan Arnold of the Jacksonville Jaguars recognized GiGi’s Playhouse in Moline.

Zoey Yaklich drew the design for Arnold’s cleats.

“[It’s] a flower with ‘Thank You,’” the 8-year-old said. " It’s sunny!”

It all started over the summer when Arnold and his wife Morgan approached Zoey’s family for the drawing.

Her dad, Brian Yaklich, was honored by the opportunity.

“We couldn’t’ve said yes fast enough,” Yaklich said. “It’s insanely exciting. Just the opportunity to have Zoey’s design on a cleat on an NFL field. You know, as a parent who’s also a huge NFL fan. It’s very cool.”

GiGi’s Playhouse is a national network of down syndrome achievement centers. However, Arnold chose to specifically highlight the Quad Cities location. Site Director Pam Lynch said the recognition is amazing for any non-profit.

“The visibility is so crucial because as a nonprofit organization, we don’t have a large market marketing budget,” Lynch said. “To have a small market playhouse being recognized, kind of on a national platform like the NFL is outstanding.”

Arnold tore his MCL before the week 13 and 14 showcases of cleats, so Zoey’s design hasn’t seen the field yet. The QC GiGi’s family hopes Arnold can showcase her drawing on the sidelines, sometime in the future.

Yaklich said seeing that family highlighted regardless if it’s on the field is what’s important.

“It’s also great to have a group of families you know — that you welcome in your own family — to ask for advice, to celebrate those wins [and] to help over hurdles,” Yaklich said.

Players choose whether to put their cleats up for auction on the national level or, in Arnold’s case, give them back to the philanthropy they’re representing.

GiGi’s plans to auction the cleats with Zoey’s design at their annual gala, next October.

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