Ronald McDonald House in Knoxville helps thousands of ill childr

Ronald McDonald House in Knoxville helps thousands of ill children's families

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Since 1985, the Ronald McDonald House here in Knoxville has provided a home away from home for nearly 50,000 people, all families of seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. Since 1985, the Ronald McDonald House here in Knoxville has provided a home away from home for nearly 50,000 people, all families of seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - 6 On Your Side dedicated Tuesday as a "Day of Service," serving meals and doing outside work at Knoxville's Ronald McDonald House.

Since 1985, the Ronald McDonald House here in Knoxville has provided a home away from home for nearly 50,000 people, all families of seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.  They call it "The house that love built", and it’s easy to see how this beautiful historic home lives up to that name.

I think that most folks are amazed to hear that the genesis of the Ronald McDonald House started with a football player," said Sue Beverly, executive director of Knoxville's Ronald McDonald House.

Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill in 1969 received the news every parent fears. His three-year old daughter Kim had leukemia.  After a long battle with the disease, Kim went into remission, but the experience changed Fred Hill.

“He and his wife were struck by so many people who didn’t have the options they had. They saw people sleeping on the floors for months at a time, trying to eat three meals a day out of vending machines," said Beverly.

With the help of Hill’s teammates and the rallying force of Dr. Audrey Evans, head of Pediatric Oncology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia the first Ronald McDonald House was born.

“It was supposed to be one house, in one city, but as is the case, sometimes wonderful ideas, it touched so many lives. It grew," Beverly said. "It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years now, 40 years since that first house opened. There are now 336 Ronald Houses, internationally, that touch up to 10,000 lives every day.”

Here in Knoxville, the Ronald McDonald house sits on small hill overlooking the Fort Sanders Neighborhood.

“We guestimate the house is 110, 112 years old, built by a civil war veteran,” Beverly said.

It’s a unique property that this non-profit is quite proud of.

“I think folks are amazed when they walk in and they do see a home.”

Inside these walls, families are given the chance to step back from their troubles, to relax and to take a moment for themselves.  It’s a chance to get back to a normal routine, if only for a few hours.

“We offer anything they need, from a nice warm cozy bed, to food, to free laundry services, really, all the comforts of home are here,” said Beverly.

The house can accommodate 16 families, or up to 65 people a night.  

“I think the thing we’re proudest of is the fact that if a family cannot afford the $5 a night donation, it’s completely waived, no questions asked.”

It’s the mission of the Ronald McDonald House to serve, to lend a helping hand, and to be a refuge for families in need.

“I think it’s very easy to see why we’re called the house that love built,” said Beverly.

What Ronald McDonald House does

Imagine having to rely on the kindness of strangers to run your household. That’s exactly what the Ronald McDonald House has to do. The local non-profit has an annual budget of almost $600,000, and every penny of that money is raised.

Denise Reed is the head chef for the night at the Ronald McDonald House. She loves the job and has been coming here to volunteer for almost eight years now

“We fix supper. We usually do a homestyle meal," she said.

Cooking for the families who stay at the house isn’t like cooking for your family at home. Reed and her helpers have to plan a well-rounded meal for 30 to 40 people.

“Sometimes it can be a little labor intensive, but it’s always a labor of love.”

The night we stopped by, they were making quite a spread: sloppy joe’s, baked beans, potato salad and brownies.

“People don’t realize that volunteering and preparing a meal, or anything that you can come and do to help, that it touches families. I think it really nurtures them to know that there are strangers out there who care and want to help," said Reed.

Even the little jobs make a huge difference…

“It is never ending. There is something that always needs attention.”

Executive Director Sue Beverly says it’s easy to help Ronald McDonald House. Just think about the things you need at your own home, from laundry detergent, snacks, toiletries, even yard work.  An hour or two or your time, or even a donation goes a long way. 

This is all part of a new community outreach program called "6 On Your Side Day of Service."

Once a month we're sharing stories from different organizations in our community, and even stepping in to help out.    

More online: 6 On Your Side Day of Service Request

If you know an organization that's in need, click on the link above to fill out a 6 On Your Side Day of Service request form.
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