Philadelphia is a city of firsts. The first United States Capital. The first post office. The first fire company. And, the first Ronald McDonald House.
That's right: four decades ago, in 1974, the dream and determination of our co-founders Dr. Audrey Evans and Jimmy Murray led to the inception of the very first Ronald McDonald House in the world, on a tree-lined street in West Philadelphia. Today—as we prepare to celebrate 40 years of supporting families with seriously ill children—there are more than 338 Houses in 35 countries around the world, thanks to a vision that started right here in our city of firsts.
Philadelphia continues to be a groundbreaking and innovative city and, over the years, has grown into a true mecca for children's health care, filled with world-class hospitals and doctors who draw thousands of families from throughout Pennsylvania and the world each year. These families come to Philadelphia for cutting-edge treatment that's not available where they live, or for specialists who understand their son or daughter’s rare and frightening condition. They come for the glimmer of hope that our city's hospitals provide, and the best chance for another birthday for their child.
The fact that so many families—from Bucks County to Curacao—are forced to uproot their lives and travel to Philadelphia for their child’s lifesaving medical care means that our two Houses continue to be an invaluable resource for families who have nowhere else to turn, enabling them to get their child much-needed treatment. And while our hospital partners provide the best care possible, we strive to provide the best and most responsive service—and the most gracious hospitality—we can, offering not just a place to sleep close to the hospital but also a true community of holistic support rooted in our values of comfort and care.
This commitment to our families’ overall wellbeing led us to focus on enhancing and expanding our programming in 2013—with our new programming informed by the feedback and suggestions of our families. These new programs include our Healthy Breakfast Program at our Chestnut Street House, our Creative Play Art & Music Therapy Program at our Front & Erie House, and our Hospitality Kiosk for families on the Critical Care Units of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. Growing our therapeutic and wellness-centered offerings will continue to be a priority for 2014.
As we continue to expand our programming over the next year, we will also actively pursue plans to expand the number of families we can serve at our Chestnut Street location. While we opened our doors for 2,379 family stays from 46 states and 20 countries in 2013, there were 2,888 more families we could not accommodate because we were full—a devastating statistic that both highlights the demand for our services and compels us to find a way to be there for the families who need us.
Reflecting on the past twelve months and looking forward to the year ahead, I am filled with deep gratitude and awe for all of our wonderful supporters—past and present, from within the Philadelphia community and beyond—who make what we do possible. Supporters who embraced the nascent idea for the first Ronald McDonald House forty years ago because they saw the dire need of families spending night after night in the hospital. Supporters who’ve been there for us as we’ve grown from a seven-bedroom House on Spruce Street to two Houses, a Ronald McDonald Camp, two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, and a Hospitality Kiosk, all to complement the outstanding care our partner hospitals provide. And supporters who encourage and inspire us as we embark on the next forty years—and beyond—of fulfilling our mission. On behalf of all of the families who have called our Houses their home since 1974, and all of the families who will come through our doors in the years ahead, I cannot thank you enough.