In the early 1970’s, Kim, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill was treated for leukemia at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Hill and his family were shocked at the number of families sleeping in the waiting rooms and on the floors of their children’s rooms so they could be close to their children during this crucial time. With the strong support of the Oncology department and Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the department, the team began to search for a way to have a “home-away-from-home” near the hospital for these families. The search led to McDonald’s owner/operators in the area who supported the concept and who were willing to hold a fundraiser to benefit this new home. It was only natural that the home be named the Ronald McDonald House after the positive clown that children love. Thus, the first House was established. It was 1974.
The Arizona Houses
- 1980 – Two members of the Junior League of Phoenix, Judy Schubert and Suzanne Hanson, began a feasibility study regarding the need of a Ronald McDonald House in Phoenix. Finding a strong need for such a home, they formed a steering committee consisting of members of the Junior League, pediatric medical specialists, hospital representatives and key people with expertise in areas needed 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 – Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix opens its doors with 16 guest rooms.
- 1995 – A very exciting year for the Ronald McDonald House of Phoenix. The first major event was the opening of a ten-bedroom addition and remodeling project that enabled us to serve more families. We grew to 26 private bedrooms with an expanded kitchen, playroom and a new library. This expansion was possible due to the generosity of the community. We were also able to build a beautiful new garden in honor of Gus Kapellas, one of our most generous McDonald’s owner/operators.
- 2005 – Ronald McDonald House of Phoenix celebrated the completion of its third major construction project, increasing its housing capacity from 26 to 45 families each day. The expansion included:
- A new free-standing building housing a new family room, library and storage room
- A two-story housing unit containing four apartments, sixteen family bed rooms with private bath, a quiet room and laundry facilities
- A renovated kitchen and dining room
- 2008 – New Ronald McDonald House opens on the campus of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The House opened its doors on June 23, 2008. The 18 room, four story facility allows RMHC to continue providing housing for the growing number of families traveling to Phoenix to receive treatment for their seriously ill or injured children. The 17,300 square foot facility is just steps away from PCH and features a full-service kitchen, dining area, and family friendly activity room.
- 2014 – Ronald McDonald House opens a third house on the campus of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona. The new addition has 16 rooms (4 being apartments), a beautiful kitchen and dining room, laundry facilities and a playground. Our third house now allows RMHC Phoenix to provide 79 rooms Valley-wide for families with children facing medical challenges.
When the Ronald McDonald House 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 of 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.”