How it All Began – The First Ronald McDonald House

2011-Kim_HillIt all began in Philadelphia in 1974 when three-year-old Kim Hill, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill and his wife, Fran, was being treated for leukemia at St. Christopher’s Hospital For Children.

During Kim’s three years of treatment, the Hills often camped out on hospital chairs and benches and ate makeshift meals out of vending machines, while they watched other parents doing the same thing. They learned that many of the families traveled great distances to bring their children to the medical facility but couldn’t afford hotel rooms.

1974-1-First_HouseThe Hills knew that there had to be a solution. Fred rallied the support of his Eagles teammates to raise funds. 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 comfortable temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital.

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.

1974-2-Shamrock_ShakeAnd, 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 (including our House in Albany); then 53 more opened by 1989. Today, more than 250 Ronald McDonald Houses in 26 countries support families around the world – providing comfort to more than 10 million families since 1974.

History of Albany‘s House That Love Built ®

1991-150th_House_ParisThe idea to open a Ronald McDonald House was brought to Albany by Dr. William Cromie, who came to Albany Medical Center as head of Pediatric Urology in 1979. Dr. Cromie had
served in the Pediatric Urology department at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital from 1975-1979 – the formative stage of the first Ronald McDonald House. During his tenure in Philadelphia, he witnessed first hand the help the Ronald McDonald House provided families coping with the illness of a child.

Exterior of the Flagship Ronald McDonald House in AlbanyIn June 1980, a meeting was held in the boardroom at the Albany Medical Center to discuss a possible local Ronald McDonald House. Dr. Cromie, Albany Medical Center officials, McDonald’s owner / operators, members of the Albany Junior League and concerned citizens attended the meeting. It was at this meeting that the seed for the Albany Ronald McDonald House was planted.

Hundreds of volunteers working shoulder-to-shoulder, logging endless hours to ensure that the dream of a Ronald House in Albany became a reality, marked the ensuing two years. Their efforts paid off, and on June 30, 1982, the Albany Ronald McDonald House opened its doors to its first guests, becoming the 35th Ronald McDonald House to open.

Exterior of one of the three Ronald McDonald HousesSix years later, in 1988, it became apparent that the facilities at 139 South Lake, with only six bedrooms, were inadequate to meet the overwhelming need. RMHC’s Board of Directors voted to purchase the house next door, 137 South Lake Avenue, and began renovations to join the two houses as one. The slow, difficult renovations taxed resources and required tremendous community support. In June 1989, the two houses officially became one, more than doubling the capacity to 16 bedrooms.

On its 30th birthday in 2012, Ronald McDonald House of Albany began a fundraising campaign to add a third house to the first two. The $2 million project was completed in 2015, bringing the total number of bedrooms available for families with children in treatment at Albany Medical Center to 25.

The newest addition to the Ronald McDonald HousesThrough its global network of 300 chapters in more than 62 countries and regions, millions of dollars in grants to support children’s programs worldwide and its three core programs – the Ronald McDonald House®, the Ronald McDonald Family Room® and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® – RMHC provides stability and vital resources to families so they can get and keep their children healthy and happy.