Most people didn't know Gabby Ives was sick. The Arlington Heights teen and University of Illinois freshman was always happy and smiling, even though she privately battled cystic fibrosis with twice-a-day breathing treatments, medication and occasional hospital stays.
The progressive disease took her life June 21, at the age of 18. An estimated 1,200 people came to the funeral home to pay their respects, some waiting in line up to two hours.
Now Ives' family and friends hope to harness that outpouring of love and positive energy to help raise money and awareness about cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes persistent problems in the lungs and pancreas, eventually causing respiratory failure.
"It used to be considered a childhood disease. You didn't make it to kindergarten," said Gabby's mother, Sarah Ives, who is active with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and has another daughter, 23-year-old Madi, battling the disease.
"They've made a lot of progress in the past 10, 20 years. But because it's a relatively small number of individuals who have it -- only about 30,000 in the U.S. -- we don't get government funding. It's all private donations, which makes it harder to do research," she said.
The Ives family has been raising money for the CFF for nearly two decades. Many of Gabby's friends plan to help by doing the annual Great Chicago Strides 5K for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation next spring. Her University of Illinois sorority, Alpha Phi, also is planning a fundraiser in her memory this fall.
Gabby's friends said her death came as a shock because she kept her physical struggles hidden. Even in the weeks before her death, she was doing normal 18-year-old things, including parties, family trips, sleepovers, playing with her dog Kaya, and hanging out with friends.
"She was friends with everyone," said her friend Lauren Senger, of Mount Prospect. "If you asked me to make a list of the nicest people on the earth, she'd be on it."
Gabby went to Dryden Elementary School and South Middle School in Arlington Heights.
She loved Nick Jonas, whom she met during a Make-A-Wish trip to a Jonas Brothers concert in Orlando (his song, "A Little Bit Longer" was played at her funeral).
A former dancer and poms member at Prospect High School, Gabby was described by several of her friends as "the most positive person I ever met."
"She never complained," said her friend Anna Daleiden, of Arlington Heights. "I remember every performance we had for Orchesis, before the show started, when they dimmed the lights for the audience, she would pull us aside and wish us luck and get us pumped up for the show."
As is common for people with cystic fibrosis, it was difficult for Gabby to gain weight, so she could easily devour a 12-piece chicken nugget meal with fries at Chick-fil-A, her friends said, even though she sometimes needed to take enzymes to help her digest her food.
"She was genuinely just a nice girl, and kept up with all of her relationships. She always said, 'I love you,' and let you know how much she appreciated you," said her sister Ali.
"I don't think it was because she knew (she was dying). She was just like that."
Donations in Gabby's memory can be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at cff.org, or by mailing checks to the foundation at 150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1550, Chicago, IL 60601.