Emily Menges on far right and Michelle Betos on far left with youth soccer players at the clinic
By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
January 2, 2019-Portland Thorns defender Emily Menges has proven author Thomas Wolfe to be wrong as you can go home again. The Second Team National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) All-Star returned home to Garden City, Long Island and gave a clinic for 100 girls from the second through eighth grades at the St. Paul’s Athletic Complex on December 22.
“I grew up in this gym, playing pickup and soccer in the winter,” Emily said. “I remember the girls that used to come back and run clinics and I looked up to them.“
Emily grew up playing for the Garden City Centennial Soccer Club, the largest club in both the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) and Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) with over 2,100 players. Emily was on the Garden City Blue Devils, then served as captain of the Albertson Fury ’91, winning three consecutive State Open Cups from 2009 to 2011. She also played for the LIJSL Select Program, now called the Player Development Program (PDP). It was then on to Georgetown University and being drafted by Portland in 2014 and playing for the Thorns for the past five years.
The $9,800 raised from the clinic benefits the I’m Not Done Yet Foundation, set up by the Menges family, which helps adolescent and young adult patients with cancer and other serious, chronic and long-term illnesses as they transition from pediatrics to adults. The inspiration for the Foundation is Emily’s brother Bobby, who died of cancer at the age of 19 in 2017 after battling neuroblastoma for almost 15 years and is remembered for his positive energy and caring nature. The Menges family said that Bobby had a lot of things that unfortunately he was not able to accomplish due to his short life, therefore the name I’m Not Done Yet, which has now become their slogan in doing good.
“Everyone in the community knows or at least has heard of our family, our situation and the Foundation now,” Emily commented. “It’s so wonderful to have the support of the town and everybody to come here.”
Some of the Foundation’s current projects include working with NYU Winthrop Hospital Cancer Center for Kids to build a wing specifically designed for adolescents and young adults 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 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.
“Bobby 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.”
Emily was joined at the clinic by several top local soccer players, including her former Thorns teammate, Michelle Betos, who now is the goalkeeper for the archrival Seattle Reign.
“I can’t imagine what they’ve gone through,” Michelle said of the Menges family. “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 and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
During the event, youth soccer players also got a chance to partake in a Q&A session with Emily, win raffle prizes (including signed jerseys from NWSL players) and get autographs.
“What’s cool is looking back because there are so many girls from Long Island in the league (NWSL),” Emily explained. “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.”
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with nine leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.