Our History

Ronald McDonald House Houston – Mission Statement

Founded in 1978, the mission of Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Houston is to offer a home away from home providing care, compassion and hope to families with seriously ill children being treated in Texas Medical Center (TMC) member institutions.

The Beginning of Ronald McDonald Houses

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia, PA, USA, in 1974, after recognizing the need for parents to stay close to their hospitalized child. As more House programs opened around the world, it became clear that caring for the family of a sick child was as important as caring for the child. That was the beginning of our unique role as a children’s charity, enabling, supporting and facilitating family-centered care. Ronald McDonald House programs, located near top children’s hospitals, allow parents who are far from home to stay close to their hospitalized child and benefit from the comforts of home without incurring hotel and food costs. Ronald McDonald House Family Room programs offer a quiet respite for all families whose children are hospitalized. And Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs bring fundamental medical and dental care to underserved communities.

“We lived in Houston and were so grateful that we had the best medical center in the world. But we saw other families that were devastated – separated from their families by long distances, eating out of vending machines and sleeping in hospital corridors.”
— Liz Kelley
Co-Founder of Ronald McDonald House Houston

History of Ronald McDonald House Houston

In 1978 Dr. Donald Fernbach, head of the Hematology and Oncology Service of Texas Children’s Hospital at that time, began the initiative to build a Ronald McDonald House in Houston. Assembling concerned parents of pediatric patients, McDonald’s franchisees and supporting members of Houston’s medical community, Dr. Fernbach started the ball rolling. All of them shared a desire to build a safe haven within the Texas Medical Center for families of young, seriously ill children. After a visit to see the Chicago Ronald McDonald House, everyone understood what kind of facility and services families of young patients needed most and how much help they’d need to make Ronald McDonald House Houston a reality.

Ronald McDonald House Houston opened its doors with a 21-bedroom House near the Astrodome in May 1981.  In the fall of 1994, a $10 million capital campaign was launched to secure funds for the construction of a new larger 50-bedroom Ronald McDonald House, (Holcombe House) closer to the Texas Medical Center, which opened in September 1997, and then expanded with 20 more bedrooms in 2018. In 2001, Ronald McDonald House Houston began offering in-hospital programs for the families whose children were admitted with critical illnesses. Now, not only does RMH Houston have the 70-bedroom Holcombe House, it also consists of Houses, Family Rooms, lounges, and private bedrooms inside Texas Children’s Hospital, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer.

To read Dr. Fernbach’s story, click here.