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The First Ronald McDonald House

In 1973, Philadelphia Eagles football player, Fred Hill, and his wife, Fran, learned that their daughter, Kim, had leukemia. While traveling into Philadelphia for treatment at the Children’s Hospital, they met other families with sick children in the same situation. These families drove hours to the hospital to be with their children, only to sleep overnight in waiting room chairs and to eat from vending machines because they had nowhere else to go.

After discussing the need for a place to stay for families, their daughter’s doctor, Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, shared her dream 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. Through Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, the team offered its support. Murray enlisted Don Tuckerman from the local McDonald’s advertising agency who, with the support of McDonald’s Regional Manager Ed Rensi, launched the St. Patrick’s Day Green Milkshake (now known as the Shamrock Shake) promotion. Funds raised went toward purchasing an old house located near the hospital.

And thus, the first Ronald McDonald House came to be in Philadelphia in 1974 – a “home-away-from-home” for families of ill children. By 1979, 10 more Houses opened. By 1984, local communities founded 60 more Houses; then 53 more opened by 1989. Today, more than 360 Ronald McDonald House programs in 52 countries support families around the world – providing comfort to more than 10 million families since 1974.

Evansville’s Ronald McDonald House

Our local RMHC of the Ohio Valley chapter was established in 1989 by Sallie Ann Hill, a local McDonald’s employee and local McDonald’s Owner/Operators. The charity hosted several fundraising events and granted the funds to help local children organizations. The Grants Program has allowed the charity to grant over $1.2 million to local organizations whose mission aligns with ours. Local McDonald’s Owner/Operators saw this as a way to support the local families who help support their businesses so much.

In May 2007, the chapter revised its by-laws and elected a new Board of Directors comprised of regional community members and local McDonald’s Owner/Operators to poise our organization for the development of our area’s own local Ronald McDonald House program. After an extensive feasibility study, it was determined that there was a strong need for a ten bedroom Ronald McDonald House to serve our tri-state families and beyond. On January 18, 2010, the Evansville Ronald McDonald House welcomed our first families into our “home-away-from-home” as their children received medical treatment at area hospitals and medical facilities. While the families we serve are experiencing a stressful time in life, our Ronald McDonald House provides them with the critical care and support they need in order to focus on the health and well-being of their child.