It all began in Philadelphia in 1974 when three-year-old Kim Hill, daughter of Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill, was being treated for leukemia at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. During Kim’s long treatment, Fred and Fran Hill slept on hospital chairs and ate meals out of vending machines, as did other parents with hospitalized children.
Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia dreamed of a comfortable temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital. Fred rallied the support of his Eagles teammates to raise funds. The Eagles’ GM, Jim Murray, gained the support of McDonald’s Regional Manager Ed Rensi, who launched the Shamrock Shake promotion. Funds raised went toward purchasing an old house located near the hospital.
By 1979, ten more Houses had opened. 15 years later, local communities founded more than 100 Houses. Today, RMHC has grown to over 380 chapters in 62 countries worldwide.
In 1978, Dr. Donald Fernbach was the head of Hematology and Oncology at Texas Children’s Hospital. He saw the devastating impact of families who struggled to stay near their hospitalized child during treatment. The benefits of keeping families close together during medical treatments fueled his vision to build a Ronald McDonald House in Houston. Dr. Fernbach rallied parents of pediatric patients, McDonald’s franchisees and supporting members of Houston’s medical community behind his cause. The goal was to build a haven within the Texas Medical Center where families of young, seriously ill children could stay together.
With the support of the Houston Oilers football team, fundraising began in earnest. Before the end of 1981, Houston’s first Ronald McDonald House opened near the Astrodome. The 21-bedroom House provided a place to stay for families with children being treated for cancer and other serious illnesses.
Since then, Ronald McDonald House has continued to expand its facilities and services to meet the growing needs of families in the Texas Medical Center and beyond. At the same time, we have remained true to our mission of providing a comfortable, safe, and supportive home away from home.
We believe families are stronger when they battle a medical crisis together. With your help we can keep family members close to each other, and steps from their child’s medical treatment.