Organizers of a fundraiser for Mount Prospect teacher Linda Frahm said it would be a "miracle" if the guest of honor attended the event last Thursday.
When she did, right as actress Bonnie Hunt was describing her resiliency and strength during a nearly five-year struggle with breast cancer, guests leapt to their feet in a prolonged standing ovation.
"She worked very hard at making sure she was well enough to be there," said her husband, Tim.
Three days later, on Sunday, Frahm died. She was 49.
The Palatine resident spent her entire 25-year career at Lions Park School in Mount Prospect, continuing to teach even after she was diagnosed in 2009 with an aggressive form of cancer.
"She had this gentle, caring way about her that carried over with her students," said Sara Murphy, a fellow Lions Park teacher. "She cared about them as if they were her own."
Frahm started at Lions Park in 1987, teaching first grade. She spent most of her career with first-graders, though in recent years she taught second grade. Most recently, while dealing with her illness, she worked in the school library.
Lions Park Principal Kris Gritzmacher described Frahm as a "passionate advocate for her students" who set high expectations for them while adding a dose of fun.
One of Frahm's traditions was having her first-graders write letters to Santa. Frahm then arranged for an elf to deliver his responses, direct from the North Pole.
"Sometimes, I was the lucky one who got to take them to the classroom -- right out of the freezer," Gritzmacher says.
Frahm's colleagues also remembered her appreciation for different cultures and their rich celebrations.
"She wholeheartedly welcomed students who were English Language Learners to her classroom," Gritzmacher added. "She designed her own foreign language and culture lessons based on the students who were in her class each year."
Thursday's fundraiser was held at the historic Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge. It featured Hunt hosting a private viewing of the film, "Return to Me," which she wrote and directed in 2000.
It was the latest in a series of community fundraisers for Frahm, including a Haircuts for Hope event last year and multiple collection boxes out at Mount Prospect businesses.
Bonnie Hunt's sister, Mary Hunt, is a teacher at Lions Park and was a close friend of Frahm's. She worked with her colleagues to organize Thursday's event.
"We were overwhelmed at the turnout," Mary Hunt said, "but I think it reflected all the former students and families whom Linda touched over the years. It was quite a celebration."
The movie night raised more than $28,000, but organizers are trying to reach their goal of raising $30,000 to help Frahm's husband and three children with the mounting medical expenses.
For details, visit youcaring.com/loveforlindafrahm.
Visitation for Frahm will be held from 3-9 p.m. Thursday at Smith Corcoran Funeral Home, 185 E. Northwest Hwy. in Palatine.
The funeral will begin at 11 a.m. Friday at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 200 N. Plum Grove Road, in Palatine.