We know that our long-time supporters and friends are familiar with some of the ways our Founding and Forever Partner, McDonald’s Canada, has supported RMHC Toronto since our inception. But you may not have heard the story of how the Shamrock Shake helped fund the first Ronald McDonald House.

In 1974, Fred Hill, who played professional football for the Philadelphia Eagles at the time, had learned that his three-year-old daughter, Kim, was diagnosed with leukemia. He and his wife, Fran, began sleeping on hospital benches and sat in cramped waiting rooms during Kim’s three years of cancer treatment.

The Hill family watched other families with seriously ill children have the same difficult experience. Many families had to travel long distances for their children to receive medical treatment and couldn’t afford hotel rooms. This inspired the Hill family to find a way to help other families like theirs.

Fred turned to his teammates. Through Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, Head of the Pediatric Oncology Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Evans had a dream of creating a “home away from home” for families with seriously ill children being treated at the hospital.

With the support of McDonald’s Founder Ray Kroc and Regional Manager Ed Rensi, there was a week-long promotion at McDonald’s in March for the Shamrock Shake to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, with all proceeds donated to the cause.

A hand holding a clear McCafe cup filled with a green beverage. In the background you can see a McDonald's restaurant with the yellow M on the outside of the building.

The funds from the Shamrock Shake promotion helped buy a four-story, seven-bedroom house that Dr. Evans found near the hospital. It opened in 1974 as the first-ever Ronald McDonald House.

The network of Houses grew quickly after that, offering families around the world a way to stay together near the hospital where their children were being treated, and be comfortable and cared for during their stay. RMHC Toronto was one of the first Houses built outside of the United States and opened in June 1981.

You can celebrate the legacy of the Shamrock Shake at your local McDonald’s restaurant until March 21, 2022.

Learn more about Our McDonald’s Relationship.