When an unlikely partnership was formed in Philadelphia in 1974 between a doctor, an NFL team, and a restaurant chain, no one could have imagined that the dream of Dr. Audrey Evans for a home away from home for families of seriously ill children would grow to become an international phenomenon.
Working as a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Evans saw families spend night after night in the hospital while their children received life-saving medical treatment. She knew there had to be a better way, and envisioned a simple house where families could stay during these stressful and uncertain times.
At the same time, the Philadelphia Eagles were raising funds in support of player Fred Hill, whose daughter Kim was in treatment for leukemia at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. When the Eagles General Manager Jimmy Murray approached St. Christopher’s about making a donation, Dr. Lawrence Naiman suggested there was an even greater need for funds resting with Dr. Evans.
Jimmy Murray met Dr. Evans and quickly learned of her concept of a home for families. He reached out to McDonald’s with the idea that they could offer the proceeds from their Shamrock Shake sales to benefit this new house. McDonald’s agreed, and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House was born on October 15, 1974.
Today, there are close to 300 Houses all over the world serving the very families Dr. Evans sought to help. The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House has expanded from the first seven bedroom house on Spruce Street to two Houses serving 60 families each night, two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a weeklong Ronald McDonald Camp.
An array of supportive services – from home-cooked dinners every night to the assistance of two trained social workers – has transformed the House into more than just a comfortable place where families sleep. From an idea for a simple house, to a multifaceted organization helping over 2,000 families from around the world each year, The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald has grown into a true home away from home for so many in need. We continue to grow the services that we provide our families, thanks to your support.
The idea quickly spread across the country and today, there are more than 150 Ronald McDonald Houses in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. Each year, the number increases as the need grows. In Michigan, there’s a Ronald McDonald House in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids.
In Detroit: the 11th House to be built and first house from the ground up.
Physicians, parents and caring individuals heard about the House in Philadelphia and found themselves talking about how they could make a difference for family members in Detroit. With guidance from the national McDonald’s Corporation, the doors of the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit opened November of 1979 in the Detroit Medical Center adjacent to Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
The House is owned and operated by a non-profit Board comprised of leaders of the community, residents and representatives of McDonald’s restaurants.
The House Built with Love
Detroit now has a home-away-from home and support services to parents with hospitalized children. The 16,000 square foot building has 25 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms. There are four “TV” rooms, an exercise room, quiet area, indoor and outdoor playrooms, phone booths, dining room and kitchen. It accommodates more than 1,000 families a year.
Residents pay $10 a night for a room that sleeps up to four members of the family. The average stay is four nights. Some, however, stay several months when their child is critically ill. Some parents return many times during the course of treatment. Nonresident parents may use the shower or relax while staying at the hospital.
Sometimes family members find themselves in a strange city without the comforting support of friends and relatives. When this happens, a parent may feel fear and defeat — at a time when the child needs the courage and love only a family member can provide.
Having family members close by has often proved to be the best medicine for a seriously ill child. But mom, dad, sister and brother can’t be there if they must pay for an expensive hotel and meal cost for weeks or months.
Taking the time to care
Ronald McDonald House Charities and Ronald McDonald House of Detroit work together to provide a home-away-from-home for families of hospitalized children.
Eighty-five percent of the home’s funding depends on continued generosity of individuals and businesses. The affiliation with Ronald McDonald House Charities and McDonald’s continues to contribute about 15 percent of the cost of operating the house.
Volunteers make the Ronald McDonald House a “home”. They greet and register families, lend a listening ear, prepare dinners, decorate the House, help with clean up days, serve on committees, and a multitude of other activities. It ensures that the House is comfortable for those needing to stay at a place that is nearby.
Some volunteers help by dropping off wish list items which includes baked and canned goods, frozen foods, bathroom cleaners, bedroom linens, pillows, toys, games, videos, and several other items. Many schools have participated to support the families of the Ronald McDonald House.
During 1996, we received sheets, blankets, books, appliances, and pop tabs.
Donations of time, talent or money are all wonderful ways to benefit the family members that stay at the House. By supporting the House, you provide a safe, secure and affordable haven for hundreds of parents and sick children each year.
To learn about how you can help the children and families at the Ronald McDonald House, call 313.745.5909, or send an email to our Executive Director.