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In 1974 the Spirit of Giving Turned to the Eagles

Eagles

Lets celebrate the Eagles! 

Not just because they’re the reigning Super Bowl champions, but because the franchise is partly responsible for the creation of the Ronald McDonald House, which launched in Philadelphia in 1974.

In 1969 Eagles tight end Fred Hill learned that his 3-year-old daughter, Kim, had been diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia. Doctors estimated she had six months to live. So the Hill’s spent the better part of the next three years driving back and forth from South Jersey, where they lived, to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in North Philly for her treatment.

The original six-month timeline doctors gave Kim proved to be wrong. She spent three and a half years receiving treatment. It was a long, grueling process and it weighed heavily on her and her family.

Under marching orders from owner Leonard Tose, then-GM Jim Murray visited St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children to speak with Kim’s doctor, Dr. Lawrence Namain. He was armed with exactly two questions:

What did the hospital need and how could the Eagles help?

Namain said that they needed everything. Their facilities were 100 years old. The hospital was relocating from 18th and Bainbridge Street to where it stands today at 34th and Civic Center Boulevard. However he also said that there was a woman named Dr. Audrey Evans, the head of oncology, that he should check in with.

Evans was extremely direct and handed Murray a grocery list of necessities.

She didn’t care about football or the Eagles. She didn’t even own a TV. When Murray suggested they meet at the Spectrum for so the team should present her a check, she had no idea where he was talking about. 

Her life was dedicated solely to the kids she cared for.

After Evans accepted the team’s check to jump-start improvements at the old CHOP in 1974, she said to Murray:

‘… ya know what else we need?’

They needed a safe haven. CHOP needed a place where families could comfortably stay while their children are in the hospital being treated for cancer. Parents needed a place where they could support each other emotionally through the turmoil of a child with a disease that was considered a virtual death sentence.

Evans asked Tose for $50,000 to fund two new rooms. When Tose asked, “how much for a whole floor?” Evans didn’t hesitate. It would be a million dollars.

“Then we’ll put in a million dollars,” Tose told her. “… and Jimmy will raise it.”

The Eagles were on board … but they needed to find a way to pay for it. So Murray worked it out with his friend that worked at a local ad agency with McDonald’s, Don Tuckerman. The Shamrock Shake was their next upcoming promotion. The proceeds from the shake would go toward the establishment of the first Ronald McDonald House.

It was perfect. Green shake. Green money. Green Eagles. Murray asked that 25 cents per shake go to help fund Evans’ vision for a home for families.

Regional manager of McDonalds Ed Rensi called Murray about the 25-cent-per-shake going rate. Murray wondered if he’d asked for too much. Rensi said to him: 

“If we just give you all the money, can we call it the Ronald McDonald House?” 

Murray said that if they gave all the proceeds over, McDonalds could name anything they wanted for all he cared.

Regional sales went well. A few months later, Murray and the Eagles were able to buy a seven-bedroom fraternity house that they renovated. 

On Oct. 15, 1974 he first Ronald McDonald House was dedicated.

Today, over 350 houses serves 60 countries. Ronald McDonald House Charities helps more than five million families a year.

“It’s the spiritual Super Bowl of the Eagles. You can’t underestimate the power of good people,” Murray said via Philly Mag. “it defines how good people’s hearts are.

“All the people that were involved, they became part of the history of the house. Everybody likes statistics, but to me if you help one child that’s a miracle. This just shows that when people work together, they can change lives – not just change lives, but save lives.”

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