History of Ronald McDonald House Charities
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 parents of sick children could be with others who understood each others’ situations and could provide emotional support.
The seeds of the partnership were planted when Kim Hill, the 3-year-old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. Hill and his wife camped out on 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 a hotel room 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 traumas as his own. Through the Philadelphia Eagles’ general manager, Jim Murray, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. It was Dr. Evans’ dream for a house that could serve as a temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital that led to the first Ronald McDonald House.
History of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh
Through the efforts of Dr. Vincent Albo, an oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, McDonald’s Corporation, the Pittsburgh Steelers and a group of parents whose children were battling cancer; Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh opened its doors on July 10, 1979. It was the seventh house established in the country. It offered ten sleeping rooms as well as a shared television room, library, playroom, kitchen, laundry room and outdoor patio.A few years later, Children’s Hospital opened the first pediatric bone-marrow transplant unit and the Ronald McDonald House was faced with a new challenge. There were more families to serve and they were staying longer. Twelve years after the first House opened, a second was purchased next door. This House was known as the apartments and was designed for families who needed to stay longer and be isolated from public spaces. For 30 years, thousands of families walked through the doors of the Ronald McDonald House. But once again, the organization was faced with the challenge of not enough space to help the many families in need of its services. In 2009, The Ronald McDonald House moved to its current site next to Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville. The new facility nearly tripled in size. It offers each family a suite with a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom as well as common areas that include a community room, computer area, playroom, kitchen, dining room and laundry area. The House connects to Children’s Hospital via the third floor allowing families to only be an elevator ride away from their children. The Pittsburgh Ronald McDonald House is the first to connect to a hospital.
Today, more than 345 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide help families stay close to their sick children when they need to heal.