In 1969, Kim Hill was three years old, battling leukemia. Doctors said she most likely wouldn’t recover. Frightened, her parents, Fred and Fran, vigilantly stayed at her bedside where they slept in a chair in her room. They grabbed whatever food they could and tried to hide their worry, sadness and fatigue. They mustered up every last ounce of strength they had and gave it to their daughter.
Inspired by their own struggle, Fred, a Philadelphia Eagles football player, and Fran set about to help other families. In 1974, together with Dr. Audrey Evans, a pediatric oncologist, Jimmy Murray, PR representative and later general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, Ed Rensi, McDonald’s® district manager and later its chief executive officer, they built the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. It was a place of strength so families could give 100% of themselves to their child. Demand was so great that it was an idea that has been replicated more than 330 times to date, with plans to keep growing. Ronald McDonald Houses are located all over the world, including on Vatican property.
On February 14, 1981, the Tucson Ronald McDonald House became the 21st House to open in this country. In response to the growing need here in southern Arizona, the House was built to support the countless numbers of children undergoing treatment at Tucson area medical facilities.
When the House first opened its doors to families in need of a “home away from home,” there were a total of five bedrooms and two shared bathrooms. The kitchen held a single refrigerator and one washer and dryer that somehow supported an average of 55 guests per month. Over the next 15 years, renovations increased the House’s capacity to 16 rooms. The addition of a duplex that was adjacent to Banner-University Medical Center accommodated an additional two rooms for families who required long-term stays.
In 2004, RMHC began a $4.5 million capital campaign to build a new, larger Ronald McDonald House in Tucson. In December of 2007, the current location opened, which can now provide for up to 28 families. The 24,000-square-foot House serves nearly 600 families each year. Families stay anywhere from one night for a check-up or outpatient procedures, to six to nine months for organ and bone marrow transplants.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room at Banner Children’s – Diamond Children’s Medical Center serves families who live in Tucson and have a child being treated at BCDCMC. Located on the fourth floor, the Family Room serves as a respite for families and offers them the opportunity to relax, have a snack, check their email and be greeted by someone with a smile. Our local Ronald McDonald House operates with a eight full-time and nine part-time employees , assisted by more than 100 regular volunteers.
RMHC of Southern Arizona is governed by a Board of Directors whose members serve as volunteers and oversee the financial and legal health of the organization