Bobby Menges was known for his smile and constant drive to help others. The junior died in Fall 2017, but he was not done making a mark.
His family established the I’m Not Done Yet Foundation in his memory, and it has since pledged $875,000 to help young adults with chronic conditions.
“After Bobby died, we knew that we wanted to do something in his memory,” his mother Liz Menges said.
The Duke student battled cancer three times before he died at 19 from complications related to a primitive neuroectodermal tumor. The name for the foundation comes from his unceasing push to help others.
“He lived his life to the fullest, and he was always raising money or speaking or volunteering, getting involved with things,” Liz Menges said. “So my older son said ‘Why don’t we call it I’m not done yet, because Bobby was never really done no matter what he was doing and how sick he was.'”
The focus of the foundation—which is awaiting approval for a 501(c)(3) status—is multifaceted, Liz Menges explained.
Through his years receiving treatment, Bobby noticed a gap in the space and resources for young people in care facilities.
“You’re in a pediatric setting, so there’s Mickey Mouse on the walls, a cloud, face-painting. The toys in the playroom are juvenile-type things. The social workers, nurses are used to dealing with little kids. And the older patients feel like they’re not in the right place,” Liz Menges said. “The flip side is that if you’re in an adult setting, you’re with a whole bunch of old men and women with oxygen tanks and you’re a 19-year-old. So you’re not really fitting in there either. It’s a complicated type of environment.”
Because of the gap Bobby noticed, one aim of the foundation is to create spaces where patients caught in that void can feel at home.
The foundation is working with The Cancer Center for Kids at NYU Winthrop Hospital to create a "coffee-shop" style space for older patients, and "I'm Not Done Yet" has pledged $225,000 to the effort.
A $500,000, five-year pledge to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City will fund research exploring how to improve psychosocial care for young adult patients facing chronic illnesses.
Liz Menges said there has not been a lot of progress in developing effective treatments for young adult cancers in recent decades, aside from medicines that can extend the patients’ lives for a few months.
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“The prognosis is quite grim,” she said. “That’s another reason why we want to focus on this age group, because there’s a lot that needs to be done, both psycho-socially as they are trying to deal with this on an emotional level and with their families, professors, friends emotionally and on a medical level.”
The foundation has also pledged $150,000 to the Duke Cancer Center for a program that will help young patients with chronic illnesses develop independence, such as through peer-to-peer counseling.
“There needs to be programming for families, parents especially, to understand what that means and prepare themselves—especially for kids with chronic conditions,” Liz Menges said.
The foundation is a family affair. Bobby’s brother recently held a blood drive, which he and Bobby had done for years. His sister, a professional soccer player, held a kids soccer camp to help raise money for the foundation.
At Duke, Bobby was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, which raises money each year for cancer research through the “Buzz for Bobby, Shave for Schreiber” event, in which students have their heads shaved or hair cut for charity. Last year, they partnered with I'm Not Done Yet.
“It’s such a good cause and a good way for them to give back to their home-away-from hometown hospital,” his mother said.
Aside from providing more than half a million dollars of financial support to the area of care Bobby was so passionate about, the foundation has also helped his family continue his work.
“It helps us, especially me, I think, keep his memory alive and continue with the legacy he started,” Liz Menges said.