What began as one family’s misfortune became good fortune for millions of families worldwide. In 1974, Kim Hill, the 3-year old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. During Kim’s three years of treatment, Fred and his wife Fran often camped out on hospital chairs and benches and ate makeshift meals out of vending machines. The Hills watched other parents around them doing the same thing. They learned that many of the families traveled great distances to bring their children to the hospital, but couldn’t afford hotel rooms.
A Better Way
The Hills began to think that there had to be a solution. Fred rallied the support of his Eagles teammates to raise funds and help other families experiencing the same emotional and financial traumas as his own. Through Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Evans dreamed of a home-like temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital.
Together, they created the first Ronald McDonald House.
That first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia in 1974. By 1979, ten more Houses had opened. By 1984, McDonald’s restaurants and local communities founded 60 more Houses; then 53 more opened by 1989. Today, there are more than 300 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.
Local RMH Houston History
In 1978 Dr. Donald Fernbach, head of the Hematology and Oncology Service of Texas Children’s Hospital at that time, began the initiative to build a Ronald McDonald House in Houston. Assembling concerned parents of pediatric patients, McDonald’s franchisees and supporting members of Houston’s medical community, Dr. Fernbach started the ball rolling. All of them shared a desire to build a safe haven within the Texas Medical Center for families of young, gravely ill children. After a visit to see the Chicago Ronald McDonald House, everyone understood what kind of facility and services families of young patients needed most and how much help they’d need to make Ronald McDonald House Houston a reality.
“Everyone can identify with the value of a low-cost lodging and most people can appreciate how much better this might be for emotionally distraught parents who would otherwise have to retreat to a strange and lonely hotel or motel room,” said Dr. Fernbach.
Like the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears before them, the Houston Oilers joined this effort. Houston’s NFL publicity machine kicked itself into gear to help raise awareness for the worthy cause. With the Oilers’ support and visibility, fundraising began in earnest. Before the end of 1981 a 21-bedroom Ronald McDonald House rose near the Astrodome at 1550 La Concha Lane in Houston, meeting a need for a place to stay for families with children being treated for cancer and other serious illnesses. By 1992, the facility was at capacity and families had to be added to a waiting list, leading the RMH Houston Board to initiate a capital campaign to build a larger House.
With loving support and generosity from the Houston community, the new 50-bedroom House opened in September 1997 on Holcombe Blvd. In 2001, RMH Houston opened three Family Rooms at Texas Children’s Hospital, followed by a 20-bedroom House inside TCH in 2002 and in 2007 a 14-bedroom House inside Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. In 2012, RMH Houston opened its fourth Family Room at the Texas Children’s Maternity Center in the Pavilion for Women and in 2013 RMH Houston opened the MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital Ronald McDonald Family Room. In the Spring of 2015, a “Cookie Corner” opened at TCH West Campus in West Houston. During its history, RMH Houston has grown and expanded to meet the changing needs of families. At the same time, we have remained true to our mission of providing a comfortable, safe and reliable home away from home.
To read Dr. Fernbach’s story, click here.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Each local Ronald McDonald House Charities Chapter is a separate public charity, operated by a local Board of Directors. In addition to its cornerstone Ronald McDonald House program, the Chapters support a variety of other programs, which may include a Ronald McDonald Family Room™, a Ronald McDonald Care Mobile™ and/or college scholarships for high school students.
Our Relationship with McDonald’s
Ronald McDonald House Charities has been McDonald’s “charity of choice” for 35 years.
We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, but McDonald’s is our largest corporate donor. Portions of the annual operating costs for Ronald McDonald Houses are graciously funded by McDonald’s and owner/operators of local McDonald’s restaurants. The remainder of our annual operating income comes from the generosity of individual and corporate donors.
McDonald’s involvement extends beyond monetary support:
- Franchises partner with local Chapters for promotional and fundraising events.
- McDonald’s employees are dedicated volunteers.
- Owner/operators participate in local and global RMHC boards.
- RMHC Donation Boxes hosted in restaurants are the largest source of ongoing RMHC Global fundraising.
- In-restaurant sales of USA Today are all donated to RMHC.
- McDonald’s conducts an annual fundraiser in November called McHappy Day. Since 2002, it has raised $150 million for RMHC and children’s charities around the world.
Although McDonald’s is our largest corporate donor, no company can solely fund RMHC programs and our projected growth. We need the support of the entire community and greatly value any support you can afford to RMHC, whether it’s through cash donations, your time or fundraising efforts.