The first Ronald McDonald House Charities opened in Texas in 1975

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The Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), a global body, includes over 350 Ronald McDonald Houses, and hundreds of other programmes in 63 countries and regions. Its mission is to create, find and support programmes that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.

The Charity began work in 1974 with the opening of the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia.

Dr Audrey Evans, who later became a co-founder of RMHC, was working as a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia when she realised the need for families of sick children to have a place to stay while the children were undergoing treatment or in post-operative care. The place could not be just any place, but had to be a supportive one that took care of the family’s needs during this stressful time in their lives.

Around the same time, the Philadelphia Eagles, an American football team, was involved in a fundraising activity to support player Fred Hill and his wife Fran Hill’s daughter, Kim, who was battling childhood leukemia. Thanks to Leonard Tose, the then owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, the team received his undivided support to continue raising funds to help benefit the local area hospitals. Stan Lane, neighbour to the Hill family, in turn, formed “Eagles Fly for Leukemia”, so as to organise the fundraising efforts to benefit Kim Hill.

The team raised in excess of $100,000. Co-Founder and then General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jimmy Murray, approached Dr Lawrence Naiman at the St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children with the proceeds raised by the Eagles. However, Dr Naiman directed Jimmy to meet Dr Evans, stating that she had a bigger plan and a greater need for the proceeds. Thus, the first proceeds from the Eagles went towards creating two positive pressure rooms at The Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

It was then that Dr Evans told Murray of her vision for a house. On hearing her plan, Murray approached Don Tuckerman and Stanley Elkman of Elkman Advertising and came up with an idea that a quarter from every McDonald’s Shamrock Shake sold in the Philadelphia region would go towards the purchase of a House located by Dr Audrey Evans. Now they had get the McDonald’s nod on this.

Ed Rensi, President of the McDonald’s Region, said yes to this proposal and agreed to provide funds from the sale of Shamrock Shakes in case McDonald’s could put its name on the House by calling it the Ronald McDonald House.

Thus, on October 15, 1974, the world’s first Ronald McDonald House was born. In the following years, the Ronald McDonald House Charities has spread across the world, forming new and independent branches in over 50 regions and countries.

The Homes continue to be a “home away from home”, where caregivers within a family can find the emotional support they are seeking by sharing their story with other families who may be experiencing similar situations.

The Philadelphia home today

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House has grown from one to two homes today. It continues to create a community of comfort and hope. Its programmes include two Ronald McDonald Houses, two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a Hospitality Kiosk at St Christopher's Hospital for Children, and a Ronald McDonald Camp.

As much as 90% of their funding comes from individuals and corporate donors, while the remaining 10% is provided by Ronald McDonald House Charities. While it costs the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House over $100 a night per family to provide housing and support services, families are only asked to contribute about $15 per night. Of course, no one is ever turned away due to their inability to pay.

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House offers a homelike environment for families while offering the support of staff and volunteers.

In addition to the two Houses in Philadelphia, which serve 65 families every night, the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House operates a Ronald McDonald Camp in the Poconos, which offers oncology patients and their siblings the opportunity to take part in a one-week summer camp.

They also operate two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which provide a comfortable space for families away from their children’s bedside.

Their newest programme is a Hospitality Kiosk at St Christopher’s Hospital for Children, which extends the comforts of the Houses to families with children in critical care units. They are offered snacks and other amenities.

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