Our History

1974, Philadelphia - The First Ronald McDonald House

In 1974 the first Ronald McDonald House opened its doors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time Kim Hill, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill, was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Throughout Kim's treatment, her father recognized the need for a supportive environment away from the hospital for families of seriously ill children. He enlisted the aid of his teammates and local McDonald's restaurant owners to raise funds that would help purchase and renovate the first Ronald McDonald House. 

The first Ronald McDonald House was named, not only because of McDonald's fund-raising support but also for the positive, hopeful, and fun-loving feeling Ronald McDonald was able to instill into the minds of so many children.

Today there are over 300 Ronald McDonald Houses located in 30 countries and regions world-wide. Every Ronald McDonald House is autonomous and is owned by a not-for-profit corporation in the city where it is located.

1990 - The History of Ronald McDonald House Charities in Chattanooga

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga was established in 1990 with 14 guest rooms and was expanded to 26 rooms in 2000.  It is the 137th House to be built.  There are now over 300 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.

The effort to build a Ronald McDonald House in Chattanooga was begun in 1985 by a group of interested parents, community leaders, medical caregivers, and McDonalds Restaurant owner/operators.  Following an extensive medical needs assessment, it was determined that a facility to house 14 families was needed and work was begun to both make architectural plans for the House and to raise money to build it.  Land was donated on a lease agreement by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, and construction began in September of 1989.  Grand opening was held on November 18, 1990, and the first resident family arrived on Thanksgiving Day.  

1996 – The Opening of the Ronald McDonald Family Room inside Children’s Hospital at Erlanger

In 1996, the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House opened a second facility inside Children's Hospital at Erlanger to alleviate the burdens caused by hospital stays and to meet the needs of families who could not use the Ronald McDonald House because of a need to stay with their child.  The Ronald McDonald Family Room offers showers, laundry facilities, a rest area, a living room, and a full kitchen where visitors can take advantage of free coffee, snacks, and meals when donations are available.  The Family Room serves over 22,000 visitors per year and is open to family members of anyone hospitalized in Children’s Hospital, Erlanger or Siskin Hospitals.  There is no charge for any of the services provided in this facility.

2000 - Expansion of the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House

In 1999, over 500 families were denied residency at the House because of overcrowding conditions.   A $3.2 million capital campaign was launched to build a 12-bedroom addition and was successful due to the continued generosity of our community, our committed volunteers, staff and board of directors.  In March 2000, grand opening was held on the addition and occupancy levels average 95% at this point.  Families seek the services of theRonaldMcDonald House primarily because of premature births, accidents, cancer treatment, respiratory problems, and specialized surgery.  Families stay an average of 16 days and are asked to make a $10 per night donation, which is waived in 61% of cases due to financial hardship. The actual cost to house one family per night is $55.00.  The Ronald McDonald House and Family Room operate with a volunteer workforce of over 600 and a small professional staff which includes a full-time and part-time resident manager at the House.   

2002 - The Launch of the RMHC U.S. Scholarship Program   

Participation in Ronald McDonald House Charities U.S. Scholarship Programs began in 2002, offering freshmen year scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to students who exhibit community service and leadership and also experience financial difficulty in covering college costs.  RMHC awards between 40 and 50 $1,000 scholarships annually, and students apply from counties in a 75-mile radius of Chattanooga. In 2008, the local McDonald’s Chatt-Ad Coop began making a monthly donation of .01% of their restaurant sales to build an endowment fund for the RMHC Scholarship Program. In 2013, the fund had grown to reach over $556,000 for a Scholarship Endowment Fund in order to perpetuate the scholarship program and increase the number of scholarships awarded annually.

2003 - The Launch of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile

In 2003, our organization took delivery on the world’s 13th Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a mobile dental clinic, which offered full-service dental care to underserved children and provided approximately 1,600 at-risk children with $350,000 of free dental care annually.  In late 2010, state funding for the mobile dental program was eliminated and without state funding, the program was closed.  During 2011, the partners of RMHC and Children’s Hospital at Erlanger reviewed other significant health needs of children in the region and formed a partnership with the Bradley County Schools and SkyRidge Medical Center to provide a school-based medical clinic in 4 of the counties' schools as a pilot project.  The Care Mobile was retrofit with medical equipment and the project has proven to meet a great need.