How it All Began
The Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco was inspired by baby Simon Nagel Gold, who passed away from a cardiac condition after four weeks in the intensive care nursery at Mt. Zion Medical Center. Simon’s parents could afford a hotel room in San Francisco, but saw firsthand that most of the other parents could not and, though completely exhausted, parents slept in their cars or on the floor in their child’s room.
As a tribute to their son, and to help ease the burden of families faced with similar circumstances, Simon’s parents enlisted support from medical professionals, friends in the community and local McDonald’s owners to build the Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco. The Bay Area community rallied in support and the Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco opened its door to families on January 26, 1989.
The First Ronald McDonald House in the Nation
In Philadelphia in 1974, 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 ate makeshift meals out of vending machines, while they watched other parents doing the same. Like the founders of our Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco, the Hill’s were troubled that most parents couldn’t afford hotel rooms.
They 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 the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Hospital staff shared their dream of a comfortable temporary residence for families of children being treated at their hospital.
Murray enlisted the support of McDonald’s local leadership, who 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. The network of Houses quickly grew and today there are approximately 350 Ronald McDonald Houses located world-wide. Each is independently owned and operated. McDonald’s is only one of many generous donors, so community-wide support is the essential ingredient for every House.