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History of the Ronald McDonald Houses

It all began in 1974…

In the early seventies, American football player Fred Hill’s three-year-old daughter was hospitalized for leukemia. Mr. Hill and his wife, Fran, soon discovered that in order to stay close to their sick children, dozens of families were sleeping in armchairs in hospital corridors, or driving exhausting distances back and forth to sleep at home. It was witnessing these struggles that made Fred Hill decide to find a way to help these families. With the help of Jim Murray (the president of his football team) Mr. Hill contacted Dr. Audrey Evans (head of the children’s cancer unit at the hospital) who agreed there was an urgent need to create a friendly place for these families to stay.

Mr. Murray next got in touch with Mr. Don Tuckerman, executive director of McDonald’s Restaurants. McDonald’s was already supporting different children’s causes at the time, in keeping with their commitment to being a family restaurant.

The decision was made during this meeting to associate McDonald’s Restaurants in Philadelphia with the creation of a “home away from home,” which would be called “The Ronald McDonald House.” McDonald’s Restaurants and the Philadelphia Eagles football team jointly organized fundraising activities and, within a week, a total of $35,000US was collected to buy a house close to the hospital.

As part of a mutual agreement, this first residence was named Ronald McDonald House in honour of the Ronald McDonald clown, a funny, magical character who symbolizes friendliness and joy for children.

Today, there are 317Houses around the world, 14 of which are in Canada.

History of the Montreal Ronald McDonald House

With its 50 bedrooms, the Montreal Ronald McDonald House is currently one of the largest of the 14 Houses in Canada.

In 1978, two volunteer mothers submitted a project to Sainte-Justine Hospital to build a family residence for parents of sick children from remote areas receiving treatment in a Montreal Children’s Hospital.. Steps were taken by Dr. Jocelyn Demers, an oncologist, to contact McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada. She then worked in close collaboration with Mr. J.E. Baribeau, a McDonald’s owner-operator who was chosen to pilot the project.

In 1982, the Montreal Ronald McDonald House opened its doors. It is located at 3201 Cote Ste-Catherine Road, on land belonging to Sainte-Justine Hospital that was yielded on an emphyteutic lease in 1980 for a period of 50 years. At the time of its opening, the House had twenty rooms.

In 1996, in response to increasing demand for rooms, a new wing was added with fifteen more bedrooms. The funding for this wing was made possible in part by the participation of Patrick Roy, an NHL goalie, who organized different projects to collect funding in addition to his own generous personal contribution.

Since 1982, more than 38,000 families have stayed here, which is an average of 2,000 families per year, or 166 families per month.