SHOREWOOD — After knocking around the NBA for a few seasons, Steve Novak — the Brown Deer High School and Marquette University standout basketball player has his first real professional security, in the form of a new four-year contract with the New York Knicks. Novak has a big fan in Maureen Jurgens, a 17-year-old girl whose rare condition spawned a friendship with the basketball star.
Jurgens, a Dominican High School senior had a healthy year this past school year, but she hasn’t always been able to say that. She was born in 1995, and had her first surgery in 1996, with 26 surgeries to follow.
“To repair her hands, her feet, her legs, her palate, her neck, her back, her heart,” Maureen’s mother, Kate Jurgens said.
When Maureen was nine years old, Novak learned of her upcoming heart surgery and paid her a visit at home.
“We had to dust everywhere because he’s so tall, so we had to make sure all the dust and cobwebs were gone,” Maureen said.
It turned into a three-hour visit, and spawned an enduring friendship between the two and their families.
“Maureen’s just such a strong person. I think you realize she’s been through so much, but she’s still so positive, and I think that’s what has drawn us to her. She’s really very inspiring,” Novak said.
“He’s a wonderful guy, and I think that’s a tribute to his parents, as well as his experience at Marquette that helped shape him as he was getting older and going off out of college. We’re just really thankful to have the Novaks in our life,” Kate Jurgens said.
It wasn’t until Maureen was nine that genetic technology was developed, determining she has Loeys Dietz Syndrome — a rare disorder that affects her connective tissue, and for which there is no cure. The condition wasn’t even named until 2005, so raising awareness is a goal for anyone affected by LD.
Novak is putting his name on a golf outing to raise money for research and to benefit the Loeys Dietz Syndrome Foundation.
“There’s no doubt I’m involved because of Mo. Because it’s her mission, I want to make it my mission,” Novak said.
“That’s the amazing thing. I thought I’d get to meet him and it would be like, that was cool, and it would be a memory and some pictures, and I’d be like ‘I met him,’ but he kept coming around and he wanted to get to know me and he wanted to learn about this disease that I had. It’s kind of crazy to think that this one guy when I was nine, he was my favorite basketball player, that he has played such an important role in my life,” Maureen said.
The golf outing is set for Friday, July 20th at Fire Ridge Golf Course in Grafton.