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Museum exhibit commemorates girl’s life

Jerry Mary Ann Hurckes smile as new exhibit 'Megan's Maze' created memory their daughter Megan is unveiled Oak Lawn Children's

Jerry and Mary Ann Hurckes smile as the new exhibit "Megan's Maze," created in memory of their daughter Megan, is unveiled at the Oak Lawn Children's Museum. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 8, 2013 8:50AM



Michael McGinnis never had a chance to meet Megan Hurckes. He never saw her pitch for her championship-winning softball team in Oak Lawn or heard her talk about how she loved learning about oceans and their inhabitants.

But elements of Megan’s life are infused into an exhibit McGinnis created that was unveiled recently at the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.

In September 2009, the 10-year-old had just started fifth grade at Kolb Elementary School, where she was a straight-A student. She and her family were enjoying a getaway in Wisconsin over the long Labor Day weekend when an all-terrain vehicle Megan was riding flipped over, killing her.

Called “Megan’s Maze,” the 3-foot-diameter clear ball has a maze inside, but it’s been customized with items such as a softball bat and glove, along with sea animals. The entire exhibit features the girl’s favorite colors — purple and orange.

The idea for the exhibit grew out of a desire “to do something in remembrance of my daughter,” said Jerry Hurckes, Megan’s father and a former Oak Lawn trustee.

Hurckes said that a longtime friend, Mark Weglarz, came across McGinnis’ creation, called “Perplexus,” which is a smaller, hand-held version of the larger maze, called a “Superplexus,” that’s just inside the main doors of the museum. McGinnis was contacted in late 2011 about creating a version of the Superplexus that could be customized to memorialize Megan’s life, Adam Woodworth, the museum’s executive director, said.

Hurckes said that he and his wife, Mary Ann, didn’t want some static display that visitors to the museum simply looked at and were excited about the idea of an exhibit that was “interactive, hands-on.”

“It’s a great remembrance of her,” he said. “It helps the museum, it helps us remember Megan forever.”

Moving the larger, outer ball of the maze controls a small ball inside that has to travel through a 3-D maze. Players begin the maze in the left-handed batter’s box — Megan was a lefty — and each red dot along the path of the maze represents a day in the girl’s life.

Woodworth said that, because of its size, the maze is geared toward kids 7 and older, and more than just a plaything, the exhibit is a teaching tool.

“You’re working on eye-hand coordination, critical thinking skills, it’s got everything in it,” he said.

Hurckes said navigating the maze “takes a little bit of patience, a little bit of time.”

Woodworth, who said he’s yet to successfully complete the maze, called the exhibit “truly one-of-a kind. There will never be another like it.”

The exhibit was paid for by the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund and the Weglarz family.



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