Ronald McDonald Houses

  • Medicine & Health
  • 1974

When Fred Hill’s three-year-old was fighting leukemia, he and his family passed hours and days sleeping in chairs and living off vending-machine food as they kept vigil with her in the hospital. Feeling there had to be a better way, he rallied friends to create a residential house where families of sick children could stay nearby while their loved ones were in treatment. Hill was a player on the Philadelphia Eagles football team, so he got lots of publicity for his efforts. This helped him connect with the regional manager of McDonald’s Restaurants—which became a major funder. Thus was the concept of the Ronald McDonald House born.

Forty years after the creation of that first facility in Philadelphia there were 353 separate Houses and Ronald McDonald Family Rooms right within 196 hospitals, giving families places to sleep, eat, regroup, and meet other parents in similar situations. These are located at nearly all U.S. children’s hospitals, and in 62 countries around the world. The families of 6 million children use them every year. Most houses charge visitors nothing, the maximum is $25 per day, and no family is turned away if they lack funds.

The charity running the houses is an independent and regionally decentralized 501(c)(3). It continues to be supported by the McDonald’s Corporation to the tune of seven-figure annual donations, along with dozens of other corporate donors and small individual supporters. The group has also harnessed more than 300,000 volunteers.