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Our History

Over 34 years of providing family togetherness
How It All Started

In the early 1970s, Philadelphia Eagles’ player Fred Hill’s daughter Kim was treated for leukemia at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Hill and his family found themselves sleeping in waiting rooms and eating out of vending machines along with several other families who didn’t leave the hospital so they could be close to their children during this crucial time.

With the support of the Oncology department and Dr. Audrey Evans, Hill and his teammates began to search for a way to have a “home-away-from-home” near the hospital for these families. The search led to local McDonald’s owner/operators who supported the concept and created the St. Patrick’s Day Green Milkshake promotion, with the funds going toward purchasing a house near the hospital where families could stay. Thus, the first Ronald McDonald House was established in Philadelphia in 1974 — named after McDonald’s famed clown mascot.

Roanoke House located in central Phoenix
The Start of Our Chapter

Since opening our doors in Phoenix in 1985, the House has undergone many changes. Scroll through the timeline to see how the local RMHC has grown from one to three Houses, now providing 78 rooms for families traveling to the Valley for medical care for their children.

1980
Members of Junior League in 1984

Junior League of Phoenix members Judy Schubert and Suzanne Hanson conducted a feasibility study that found a need for a Ronald McDonald House in Phoenix. They formed a steering committee with pediatric medical specialists, hospital representatives and other key authorities to make the House a reality.

1984
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix original logo from 1985

McDonald’s restaurant owner-operators of Phoenix and Northern Arizona joined the effort and we officially became the Ronald McDonald House of Phoenix.

1985
Two women, the original staff of RMHC Phoenix, stand in front of the Roanoke House dedication plaque

On May 15, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix opened its doors with 16 guest rooms — the 81st in the continually-growing network of Houses worldwide.

1995
Group of RMHC supporters including Ronald McDonald during the groundbreaking of the 1995 House renovation at Roanoke

We added 10 rooms and expanded the kitchen, playroom and a new library. We also added a new garden in honor of Gus Kapellas, one of our most generous McDonald’s owner/operators.

2005
Two-story building expansion from the 2005 renovation at the Roanoke House

Our third major construction project increased our housing capacity to 45 rooms. The expansion included:

  • A new free-standing building housing a family room, library and storage room
  • A two-story housing unit containing four apartments, 16 guest rooms with private bath, a quiet room and laundry facilities
  • A renovated kitchen and dining room
2008
Cambridge House located on the campus of Phoenix Children's Hospital

On June 23, we opened a second Ronald McDonald House on the campus of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The 18-room, four-story facility is just steps away from PCH and features a full-service kitchen, dining area, laundry facilities and activity room.

2014
Dobson House located on the Campus of Cardon Children's Medical Center

On November 10, we opened our third Ronald McDonald House on the campus of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, AZ, with 16 rooms (including four apartments), kitchen and dining room, laundry facilities and a playground.

2016
Entryway to Ronald McDonald House showcasing the mural by artist duo the Fortoul Brothers

As part of their 50th anniversary, Phoenix International Raceway remodeled the kitchen, dinning and family rooms, and staff offices of the Roanoke House. The renovation included a custom mural by artists the Fortoul Brothers.

2018
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona logo

We modified our name to become Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona to better reflect the geographic area that we primarily serve.

The people who have built this House, who have donated, who have spent the time, who have come everyday, the groups that come in and cook dinners for the families, have made a very big difference to the families who stay here.

— Mother from Yuma, Arizona

Gus' Garden

When the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix went through a major expansion in 1995, Gus’ friends and co-workers wanted to supplement our expansion effort and honor Gus in a way that would be an enduring tribute to him. They raised funds and built a beautiful garden to honor their friend. We call it “Gus’ Garden.” It is a tranquil place with a small fountain where families can sit and enjoy the trees, flowers and beautiful sky.

There could be no more fitting way to honor a man who has been generous, kind and supportive to literally thousands of people. His honorable treatment of those around him is well-known throughout Phoenix, and his kind, unassuming manner brings love and respect from all who knew Gus.

It would be impossible to list all the things that Gus did for the House. He is part of everything we have done here, from the bricks and mortar, to the fundraising, to the love that really does permeate the House. Where there was a need, Gus was there – physically, financially and most importantly emotionally. Sadly, Gus passed away in August 2015. However, his legacy will live on and his wonderful spirit will continue to help thousands who call the House their “home-away-from-home.”