The Story of Ronald McDonald House®
When an unlikely partnership was formed in Philadelphia in 1974 between an NFL team, a children’s hospital and a restaurant chain, none of its members could have imagined that their dream of a “home-away-from-home” for families of seriously ill children would grow to become an international phenomenon. They simply wanted to create a place where the families of seriously ill children could be with others who understood their situations and could provide emotional support.
The seeds of the partnership were planted when Kim Hill, the three year old daughter of the Philadelphia Eagles tight-end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. Hill and his wife camped out on the hospital chairs and benches, ate food from vending machines and did all they could to keep Kim from seeing their sadness, exhaustion and frustration. All around them the Hills saw other parents doing exactly the same thing. They learned that many of the families had traveled great distances to bring their children to the medical facility, but the high cost of hotel rooms was prohibitive. They continued to think, “There has to be a happy medium.”
Hill rallied the support of his teammates to raise funds to help other families experiencing the same emotional and financial trauma as his own. Through the Philadelphia Eagles general manager Jim Murray, Leonard Tose, owner of the Eagles, and Ed Rensi, the McDonald’s regional manager, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. McDonald’s owner/operators in Philadelphia donated proceeds from the sale of Shamrock Shakes to fulfill Dr. Evans’ dream of a house that could serve as a temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital, which led to the first Ronald McDonald House.
By 1979, ten more Houses had opened. In the next five years, local communities founded 60 more Houses; then 53 more opened in the next five years. Across the country and throughout the world, people viewed the Ronald McDonald House as a way for a community to band together, for their neighbors in need of comfort and security, during a particularly difficult time. In 1984, Ronald McDonald House Charities was officially established in memory of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, a strong advocate for children.