In Philadelphia, in 1969, Fred and Fran Hill kept watch over their three-year-old daughter, Kimberly, as she fought for her life with acute lymphatic leukemia. Tired and sore from sleeping in waiting room chairs, the Hills did not complain about their ordeal, but instead decided to help others. Fred Hill, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles, enlisted the support of his fellow players and their wives, as well as Eagles staff, management and owners, and raised a great deal of money for oncology at St. Christopher's.
Through sharing his story with friends and colleagues, Hill inspired a joint promotion between the Eagles and McDonald's Restaurants to raise money to buy a home near the hospital. The group that originally founded the house called it Ronald McDonald House in honour of the bright friendly clown who represents fun and hope for all children.
By Christmas of 1974, the first Ronald McDonald House had welcomed the families of seven sick children. But this was, of course, just the beginning. Today there are over 368 Ronald McDonald Houses operating.
In 1980, Winnipeg lawyer Richard Adams enlisted the help of Dr. Agnes Bishop and Dr. Norman Goldberg to organize a Ronald McDonald House project for Winnipeg.
"A remarkable and somewhat small group of people worked tirelessly to organize, publicize, fundraise, plan and build our Winnipeg House. It was a group comprised of people from all walks of life who bonded together, not unlike a family. We shared responsibilities, successes and failures: we lent support and affection to those among us who experience the loss of a child. Less than three years was required to raise 50% of our project costs, build the House and open the doors," says Adams.
On May 30, 1984, the Winnipeg Ronald McDonald House opened, just down the street from Children's Hospital, at 566 Bannatyne Avenue. With room for 14 families, Ronald McDonald House is a "home-away-from-home" for rural Manitoban and out-of-province families with a child requiring treatment at a nearby hospital.
In 2010, the Ronald McDonald Family Room was created to extend the mission of Ronald McDonald House within the walls of HSC Children's Hospital in Winnipeg. The space is a place of respite and comfort for families with children who are patients at HSC Children's Hospital and need to take a break from the hospital environment. At the time of its opening, it was the largest Family Room in the world. There are now 249 Ronald McDonald Family Room programs worldwide.
In 2011 Ronald McDonald House Winnipeg became Ronald McDonald House Manitoba, a name that better reflects the families we serve and helps us reach out to our McDonald's partners and supporters outside of Winnipeg.
In 2014, Ronald McDonald House Manitoba became known as Ronald McDonald House Charities Manitoba to reflect the network of Ronald McDonald House Charities organizations around the world.
From its beginnings in Philadelphia, to our House in Winnipeg, to an organization of over 365 Houses across the world, RMHC Manitoba is truly dedicated to Keeping Families Close.
Sources: Reader's Digest, The Houses That Love Builds, John G. Hubbell, June 1981. State of the Union, Ronald McDonald House International Advisory Board, February 1994. Ronald McDonald House, A Decade of Love, Pediatric Oncology Family Centre of Manitoba, May 1994