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 280 Ronald McDonald House programs in 30 countries support families around the world - providing comfort to more than 10 million families since 1974.
The idea of a Ronald McDonald House in Nashville came from Dr. John Lukens, the head of the pediatric oncology department at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital after he visited the second Ronald McDonald House, which was built in Chicago. The dedicated group who spearheaded the effort to have a House in Nashville consisted of medical professionals, members of the McDonald’s restaurant family, community leaders and families who had experienced first hand the illness of a child.
The original 16-bedroom Ronald McDonald House in Nashville opened in July of 1991 with seed money from the local McDonald's owner/operators and donations from corporations, organizations, individuals and foundations. The Ronald McDonald House in Nashville was the 142nd house completed.
In 1999 the Nashville House doubled in size to provide more room to support more families who were caring for their sick children. The expanded Nashville House is equipped with 32 bedrooms all with private baths (three for the disabled), a laundry room, pantry, 2 kitchens, and dining rooms. The House offers families a place to come together at the end of a long day at the hospital to receive support and encouragement from other families in similar situations. Of those 32 bedrooms, three are extended stay suites with kitchenettes for children who require isolation (i.e., following bone barrow or heart transplants). Also included is one short stay room for families who need a place to get away from the hospital during the day, but will return home at night. The Nashville House also has a large family room, teen/game room, children’s playroom and a library.
In February 2004, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Nashville officially opened Nashville’s first Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. This room is an extension of the House where families and friends of seriously ill children can enjoy a quiet respite from corridors and waiting rooms, whether or not they’re staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
The Family Room includes a comfortable seating area, a kitchen stocked with snacks, a children’s play area, a half bath and the support of caring staff and volunteers. The Family Room has served more than 250,000 individuals since its opening and averages 3,500 visitors per month.
Since the Nashville House first opened its doors in 1991, more than 11,700 families from over the U.S. and several foreign countries have benefited from the services and hospitality provided by the volunteers and staff of our House.