It all began in Philadelphia in 1974 when 3-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.
The 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.
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 (including our House in Albany); then 53 more opened by 1989. Today, more than 250 Ronald McDonald House programs in 26 countries support families around the world - providing comfort to more than 10 million families since 1974.
The 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 which opened in Philadelphia in 1974. During his tenure in Philadelphia, he witnessed first hand, the help the Ronald House provided families coping with the illness of a child.
In June of 1980, a meeting was held in the boardroom at the Albany Medical Center to discuss a possible 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. Today there are over 240 worldwide.
Six years later, in 1988, it became apparent that the facilities at 139 S. Lake, with only six bedrooms, was inadequate to meet the overwhelming need. Our 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 of 1989, the two houses officially became one, more than doubling the capacity to sixteen bedrooms.
Since Ronald McDonald House opened its doors in 1982, there have been over 14,000 visits with families from 37 New York counties, 38 states, and 29 countries.