How It All Began
Co-Founder, Dr. Audrey Evans, was working as a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and saw the need for families to have a supportive place to stay while their children were in treatment; she had a vision for a home away from home, similar to a YMCA. She saw parents living in waiting rooms or out of their cars, and she saw families being split apart as one parent stayed at the hospital and the other went home with their other children.
At the same time, the Philadelphia Eagles were fundraising in support of player Fred and his wife Fran Hill’s daughter, Kim, who was battling childhood leukemia. Thanks to Leonard Tose, then owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, the team received his undivided support to continue raising funds to help benefit local area hospitals. Stan Lane, neighbor to the Hill family, formed Eagles Fly for Leukemia, to organize fundraising efforts to benefit Kim Hill. For over forty years, Mr. Lane as been a strong proponent for leukemia research and oncology families.
Co-Founder and then General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jimmy Murray, approached Dr. Lawrence Naiman at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children with proceeds raised by the Eagles. However, Dr. Naiman directed Jimmy to Dr. Evans; stating that she had a greater need for the proceeds. The first proceeds from the Eagles went towards creating two positive pressure rooms at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and then Dr. Evans told Jimmy of her vision for a house.
Jimmy 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. Thanks to Ed Rensi, President of the McDonald’s Region, he said yes to this proposal and agreed to provide funds from the sale of Shamrock Shakes if McDonald’s could name the House.
On October 15, 1974, the world’s first Ronald McDonald House was born and now serves as the model for over 350 Houses in 38 countries.
Ronald McDonald House
Jacksonville opened a 10-bedroom Ronald McDonald House across from University Hospital (UF Health) in November 1988. As pediatric health care became more concentrated on the Southbank of Jacksonville, the need for a House closer to those facilities developed. Our new House opened with 20 bedrooms in November 2001. An additional 10 bedrooms were completed in July 2004. The Jacksonville Ronald McDonald House has served more than 33,000 families since 1988.
In 2016, we expanded our House to 53 rooms in order to serve more families with sick children. The expansion has allowed us to meet the increased need for our services. The $12.5 million expansion also increased common area spaces including kitchens, dining room, laundry facilities, play areas and a peaceful rooftop garden which are so important to creating a “home away from home”. These areas help to foster the emotional connection between families and allow us to go beyond meeting their basic needs.
Family Room at Wolfson Children’s Hospital
In 1993, our Ronald McDonald Family Room® opened on the 5th Floor of Wolfson Children’s Hospital thanks to the generosity of Mary Virginia and the late C. Herman Terry. Mary Virginia Terry graciously contributed to the renovation of the Family Room in 2008 when it was moved to the 3rd Floor outside of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.