One day in early March, Heather Kadlec was busy working on a number of projects as Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95’s curriculum director. The next day, she was undergoing hours of surgery to remove blood clots that had caused the 35-year-old Kadlec to suffer a debilitating stroke and heart attack.

She spent nearly a month in intensive care and another month at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. For the past three weeks, Kadlec has been at home in the Oak Park apartment she shares with her boyfriend, Jonathan Shack.

While Kadlec has come a long way, the road ahead is far longer. With that in mind, students at S.E. Gross Middle School have organized and will host “Karing for Kadlec,” a spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser on Tuesday, May 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the student commons area of the school, 3524 Maple Ave. in Brookfield. The fundraiser is open to the public. Tickets are $5 each.

Shack said Kadlec smiled and nodded her head in understanding when told that district students had planned the event. While Kadlec still is unable to speak for the most part, she can read and has been combing through the many cards well-wishers have sent to her.

Physically she has progressed tremendously. Doctors initially believed it would be a year before Kadlec would be able to walk without assistance. But Shack said Kadlec was walking on her own within a month.

“She can walk around the block, and in a couple of months may be able to walk a mile,” Shack said. “Their hope is that someday in the not-too-distant future she’ll be able to do things like jog again, ride bikes and play doubles tennis. They’ve upped the end goal, which was originally walking without a cane.”

Students have been selling tickets to the fundraiser inside the school, but they will also be available at the door, said S.E. Gross School physical education teacher Jennifer Hodges, whose students have spent one day each week putting together the event.

“I provide feedback, but it’s their decisions,” said Hodges of the student effort. “They’ve been really thoughtful in the way they’re going about it.”

The student council has been selling wrist bands with the words “Kadlec’s Warriors” on them, a reference to the school’s mascot.

Although the students did not have Kadlec as a classroom teacher, they took charge of the effort, Hodges said.

“It’s very neat to know she’s had that much of an impact on students who were not even in her classroom,” Hodges said. “It speaks volumes of her and her character.”

S.E. Gross Middle School Principal Todd Fitzgerald said news of Kadlec’s stroke devastated her colleagues.

“We certainly miss her being here as a colleague and as a friend,” Fitzgerald said. “She’s been a huge part of the success the district has had over the last five years.”

Kadlec undergoes three hours of therapy five days a week, according to her parents, Colleen and Randy, Riverside resident who have updated news of Heather’s recovery on a website at

Her parents also mentioned on the website that such therapy is using up her health care benefits quickly.

According to Shack, Kadlec’s insurance only covers seven weeks of rehab therapy, which she undergoes five days a week. Rehab is costly, at more than $400 per day. And for someone like Kadlec, who will require months of therapy, the cost will quickly become burdensome.

“In a situation like this, you need, at minimum, six months of therapy,” Shack said. “The idea that there’s only seven weeks [coverage] is baffling.”

All money raised at the S.E. Gross School fundraiser, and any future ones, will go to help pay for that therapy, Shack said.

“We want to continue the therapy as long as we can,” he said.

There’s also the ability to donate money to “Team Kadlec” on the Caring Bridge website.

For more information on the May 24 fundraiser at S.E. Gross School, contact Jennifer Hodges at 708-588-8835.