Margaret “Midge” Purce, a star forward for NY/NJ Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League visited AHRC New York City programs on Thursday, April 14th. Midge was previously honored at the 2022 Thurman Munson Awards benefitting the AHRC New York City Foundation. The visit was Midge’s first opportunity to see in person the programs that the Munson Dinner annually supports. She was welcomed by staff, students, artists, and more at AHRC NYC’s Esther Ashkenas Central Park Early Learning Center and Walter and Evelyn Redfield Day Services.
Bringing Joy and Support
Beth Rosenthal, Principal at Central Park ELC, told Midge that the school emphasizes physical fitness and nutrition whenever possible as part of its mission to improve the lives of students with disabilities. A partnership with New York Road Runners and virtual cooking classes allows students to expand their interests while engaging in healthy, productive activities.
“The more prepared these kids are at very early ages, the better prepared they are for academic and social challenges in the future,” Beth said.
Midge said that she was consistently impressed with the relationships staff members developed with the people they support. Mary Shafer, Community Support Professional, explained that maintaining those relationships is important for all involved.
“We’re family-oriented people—these places become our second homes,” Mary said. “While we bring joy and support to them, they give it back to us more than we can ever imagine.”
Marco Damiani, CEO of AHRC NYC, explained that staff members at the agency and in the field at large deserve wider recognition.
“It’s not excellence in this silo of disability—it’s just excellence,” Marco said. “We’re just helping set up the conditions to help people be who they already are.”
Sharing Midge’s Soccer Knowledge
Midge Purce knows all about excellence. A two-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Harvard University, she had a breakout season at NY/NJ Gotham FC in 2021, being named the NWSL’s Best XI First Team and a finalist for league MVP. Midge won three Ivy League titles
“Every game is really tough,” Midge told Redfield Center’s Martin Neal in an interview for his podcast. “The bigger the stage is, the more nervous you get. But you have to remind yourself that it’s the same game no matter what is at stake.”
The sport has taken Midge all over the world. “I love to travel with it,” she explained. She’s played matches in France, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, England, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden, to name a few. Martin asked Midge about the time she went to the White House to speak about the issue of equal pay for women.
“It was really fun. I got to play soccer on the White House lawn,” Midge said. “They have these chocolate chip cookies they make especially for the President and they’re only in the Oval Office. I definitely took a few of those with me.”
Midge dedicates much of her time to the Black Women’s Player Collective, a nonprofit she co-founded to advance opportunities for black girls in sport and beyond. When not playing, she said she enjoys unwinding with romance novels and reality TV.