Garden City’s Bobby Menges lived with an indomitable spirit.
Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Bobby worked to inspire, raised awareness, and gave his time, energy, and support to others.
He passed away at 20 years old after battling the disease for almost 15 years. His spirit, though, lives on through the I’m Not Done Yet Foundation, set up by the Menges family, which supports kids who are transitioning from adolescence to young adults.
Led by Portland Thorns defender and Bobby’s sister Emily Menges, the foundation hosted a soccer clinic in tandem with the Garden City Centennial Soccer Club at the St. Paul’s Recreation Complex in Garden City on December 22. The clinic was held for girls from second through eighth grade.
“I grew up in this gym, playing pickup and soccer in the winter,” Menges said. “I remember the girls that used to come back and run clinics and I looked up to them, so it’s really cool I can put this on for them for a good cause.”
The money raised from the clinic goes to offering continued support for transitional care. During Bobby’s own battle with the illness, the Menges family saw that the adolescent to young adult demographic is often times forgotten. Bobby received his care alongside much younger patients.
Some of the foundation’s current projects include working with NYU Winthrop Hospital Cancer Center for Kids to build a wing specifically designed for the age range to allow for a more appropriate and comfortable setting during treatment. The I’m Not Done Yet Foundation has also partnered with the hospital to support a music therapy program and partnered with the Duke Cancer Center – Bobby was enrolled at Duke University – to fund an adolescent and young adult advisory and counseling team connecting AYA patients with peer-to-peer resources and services to help them cope with their unique emotional and social needs. The foundation is also sponsoring medical research.
“Everyone in the community knows or at least has heard of our family, our situation, and the foundation now,” Menges said. “It’s so wonderful to have the support of the town and everybody to come here.”
During the event, participants also got a chance to partake in a Q&A session with Emily, win raffle prizes, which included signed jerseys from National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) players and to get autographs from Emily as well as fellow professional soccer player and Long Islander Michelle Betos.
“I can’t imagine what they’ve gone to,” Betos said. “I can’t even put it into words. Their strength throughout has been incredible. They’ve used this tragedy to keep going with Bobby’s work, to inspire, and to help others. They are amazing. I’m in awe of how they’ve done all of this. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Emily began her soccer career in playing for the Garden City Centennial Soccer Club in LIJSL before playing with Albertson Fury and also participated in the LIJSL Select, now called PDP, program. Betos started out playing in the Auburndale Soccer Club before also playing with the Albertson Fury. She was teammates with Emily in Portland before playing overseas. She now plays for the Seattle Reign.
“What’s cool is looking back because there are so many girls from Long Island in the league (NWSL).” Menges said. “We really had a huge talent pool to grow up with. I think that makes all the difference. We were lucky to be surrounded by awesome coaches, awesome girls, and it was great.”
Betos added: “Any kind of organization when you’re a kid to have something to look forward to every week was so fun for me. It’s where my love of the game came from. It was awesome playing against different teams on Long Island, where there is so much talent, especially if you look at the pro league now. It was a really cool experience as a kid.”
She noted soccer can transcend the significance of it just being a game.
“This game takes on so many meanings,” she said. “Emily and her family are some of the best people I’ve ever met. She’s one of my best friends.
“Bobby was so incredible. Like her dad said he never stopped giving, he never stopped doing. This is just a little piece of that. Anything we can do to emulate that and keep his spirit going is a really cool opportunity.”
Soccer was also a way for Emily to bond with her brother, even though he didn’t play much past high school.
“He was my biggest fan,” she said. “He watched all my Thorns games, came out to Portland a few times, and he was a ball kid for my Georgetown games. Just my biggest supporter.”
After its first iteration, sharing the sport through the Bobby Menges Memorial Clinic could very well become a staple in the community.
“I just hope they had fun and come back next year and leave a little more inspired,” Emily Menges said.
Feeling inspired is exactly what Bobby would’ve wanted.