Alex Novak of West Chicago still in ICU as his plans to start high school at St. Francis in Wheaton are put on hold
Alex Novak is a fighter.
After seven long years of studying the art of combat, he recently became a black belt in karate. The 14-year-old was the youngest to achieve this status in his class.
Now Alex is in the midst of a different kind of fight. After being struck by a van on Aug. 18 while riding his bicycle, Alex is being treated at Central DuPage Hospital for massive head trauma.
Following the accident, Alex’s father, Larry Novak, sent an email to friends and colleagues describing what happened.
“It is with deep regret and profound sadness that I send this letter that no parent should ever have to write,” Larry said. “Please join me in hoping for the best and to have our Alex returned to us.”
Alex had just helped his parents load their car to move his older sister, Raquel, to college when he went for a bicycle ride around their neighborhood, Larry said. After riding down the Novaks’ street, he was struck by a van about 3:45 p.m. at Donald Avenue and Prince Crossing Road near West Chicago.
The impact caused a direct blow to Alex’s head, and he became unconscious immediately. CT scans revealed that he suffered a torsional brain injury, which means there are many small internal tears in his brain, his father said.
Alex is in critical but stable condition. He has been in a coma since late Aug. 22.
In response to the accident, the Novak family has received a significant outpouring from the community. Alex is known throughout his community for the many ways he lends his time, including through Boy Scouts and his activism with his local parish, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Winfield.
The parish held a special Mass for Alex on Aug. 22. More than 450 people were in attendance, said the Rev. Tom Cargo, parish pastor.
“We are praying strongly and are very hopeful for his recovery,” he said.
Alex has served as both an altar server and Eucharistic minister at St. John the Baptist.
“He is a model young man,” Cargo said. “He’s a warm, gentle, giving young man. He is always ready to respond and help with anything you ask him to do.”
Alex has been his Boy Scout troop’s librarian, as well as a patrol leader, and is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout.
His role as patrol leader includes duties such as attending the monthly patrol leaders conference, keeping up-to-date with the patrol’s calendar of events and scheduling patrol members to take part in those events, said Bob Camp, one of the adult leaders for Alex’s troop. Alex’s patrol makes up one patrol within the troop.
As troop librarian, Alex keeps the troop’s collection of available merit badges organized and updated.
“He is a great example to the younger scouts,” Camp said. “Both his leadership and scout skills are outstanding. He is always willing to serve the troop in whatever capacity.”
After graduating from St. John the Baptist Catholic School with honors, Alex passed the entrance exams to St. Francis High School in Wheaton and registered for honors courses in geometry and biology.
He has always loved math and science and has shared that love with other youth through presentations he gave as part of events held by the Chicago Architectural Foundation and DuPage County Engineering Week, Larry Novak said.
Alex also received the highest possible award at the Illinois State Science Fair for a project that tested how battery power is affected by temperature.
Outside the classroom, Alex played football for the West Chicago Wildcats Gold football team and basketball for St. John the Baptist Catholic School. He was preparing to start in St. Francis High School’s opening football game last weekend.
“Alex was the consummate team player,” said Jayme Kurtyka, who coached Alex in basketball from fifth through eighth grade. “He was always willing to play as part of a team, willing to play whatever role the team needed him to play.”
Within this past year, Alex also was named “first trumpet” in the Winfield Community Band and received his black belt in karate.
At 14, he was the second person his age to become a black belt at West Chicago Park District, said Karl Donovan, who has taught Alex karate for seven years.
“He’s determined, he’s a fighter,” Donovan said. “He’s been one of my top students.”
He said Alex practiced every day to earn his black belt.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Donovan added.
While most children his age probably don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, Alex has known this since he was 7 years old, his father said. He wants to be a member of the United States Air Force.
“His dreams were simple and yet far-reaching,” Larry Novak said.
He pursued his black belt as a way to set himself apart from other people who would one day be applying to join when he did, his father said. And he also recently began experimenting with professional flight simulators at DuPage Airport in hopes of getting a pilot’s license to fly small planes and eventually jets.
Alex has hopes to one day participate in a full marathon and already has run a half marathon at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where his older sister attends college, Larry said. He has achieved the status of Star Scout and is working toward becoming a Life Scout, both of which are the last stepping stones to becoming an Eagle Scout.
Alex’s many achievements and qualities have not gone unnoticed by the community.
He received the American Legion Medal of Honor - Distinguished Achievement Award for “recognition of the possession of those high qualities of Courage, Honor, Leadership, Patriotism, Scholarship and Service, which are necessary to the preservation and protection of the fundamental institutions of our government and the advancement of society.”
“He has a quiet presence. He fills a room with his actions instead of his words,” his father said. “Alex was one of those kids who kept his hands busy helping people.”
And even through what has happened, Alex has found a way to help others in his community.
“Friends and family argue. They rarely get a chance to say how much they love each other,” Larry said. “If there’s one plus to what has happened, it’s that this has prompted other families to sit down and tell each other how much they love each other.”
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