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House programs spark a
global movement

In 1974, RMHC opened the first Ronald McDonald House to give families a place to stay when they had to go to Philadelphia for their child’s medical care. Co-founder and pediatric oncologist, Dr. Audrey Evans, knew it was equally important to care for, and support the whole family when a child was sick. 

One year later, Chicagoland residents Charlie and Gay Marino made a trip to the doctor that would change their life - and those of countless others - forever. 

When their daughter, Gage, was diagnosed with stage four cancer, the Marinos immediately began seeking treatment in Chicago and wanted to remain as close as possible while she received it. But, as the weeks turned to months, the Marinos had no option but to sleep in hospital waiting rooms night after night to remain close. 

The Marinos dreamed of setting up a small, comfortable space near a local hospital where parents could stay the night with the peace of knowing their child was nearby. And their chance encounter with another pediatric oncologist in Chicago helped turn their dream into a reality. 

Dr. Edward Baum was Gage’s oncologist. He had heard of a similar concept recently opened in Philadelphia. He immediately connected the Marinos with Dr. Evans and Jimmy Murray, co-founders of the first Ronald McDonald House. Within a week, Dr. Evans and Murray welcomed the Marinos to Philadelphia for a visit and offered whatever support they could provide to bring a similar structure to life in Chicago. 

And just like in Philadelphia, the Marinos and Dr. Baum rallied a community of supporters in Chicagoland to help secure the funding for the second Ronald McDonald House which opened on April 28, 1977. 

For Charlie Marino, meeting Dr. Baum was the best encounter he ever had.

“He not only saved my daughter’s life,” Marino remembered of the late Dr. Baum. “He wanted to help heal families. And together, we were able to do that with the first Ronald McDonald House in the Chicagoland area.” 

The RMHC vision is for a world where every family has what they need to ensure the best health outcomes for their children. Today, RMHC is closer to seeing that dream come true also. Each year, RMHC serves millions of families through nearly 400 House programs worldwide and 280+ additional programs and services dedicated to supporting the whole family. 

Bookmark rmhc.org/Our History for monthly stories of RMHC impact since 1974.