In the early 1970s, Kim Hill, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill, 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.
The Arizona Houses
- 1980 – 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 – McDonald’s restaurant owner-operators of Phoenix and Northern Arizona joined the effort and we officially became the Ronald McDonald House of Phoenix.
- 1985 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.
- 2018 – 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.
When the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix went through the major expansion in 1995, friends and co-workers of Gus approached the Board. They wanted to supplement our expansion effort and to honor Gus in a way that would be an enduring tribute to him. Hence, they raised funds and built a beautiful garden in Gus’ honor. 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 RMHC Phoenix. 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 RMHC Phoenix their “home-away-from-home.”