How It All Began

When an unlikely partnership was formed in Philadelphia in 1974 between an NFL team, a children’s hospital and a restaurant chain, none of its members could have imagined that their dream of a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children would grow to become an international phenomenon. They simply wanted to create a place where parents of sick children could be part of an understanding and supportive community.

The seeds of the partnership were planted when Kim Hill, the three-year-old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. Hill and his wife camped out on hospital chairs and benches, ate food from vending machines and did all they could to keep Kim from seeing their sadness, exhaustion and frustration.

All around, the Hills saw other parents doing exactly the same thing. They learned that many of the families had traveled great distances to bring their children to the medical facility; but the high cost of hotel rooms was prohibitive. They continued to think, “There has to be a better way.”

Hill rallied the support of his teammates to raise funds to help other families experiencing the same emotional and financial traumas as his own. Through the Philadelphia Eagles’ general manager, Jim Murray, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It was Dr. Evans’ dream of a house that could serve as a temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital that led to the first Ronald McDonald House.

Maryland’s Ronald McDonald House opened on June 28, 1982.

Joe Erhmann with JJIt was 1978 when Joe Ehrmann lost his only brother Billy to aplastic anemia. The experience provoked Joe to take action to bring together the people who built this House. Ever since, Joe’s involvement with the Baltimore Ronald McDonald House has been paramount to its every success.

Today, Joe is called many things: a minister, a former NFL player, a mountain of a man, and the most important coach in America. But here, within the walls that encircle Billy’s memory, Joe is our history. He is the keeper of our mission, enabling all those who pass through these halls to connect with our very reason for being. He is the constant that has remained within reach for these 30 years as 35,000 families have shared our Home.

When a child is told, “It’s time to get your life in order,” Joe is here to instill peace. When a family leaves us without their beloved child, Joe can touch their hearts with his faith. When the burden of losing child after child becomes too much to bear, Joe invigorates us with the value of our trying. Joe Ehrmann has quietly and powerfully held on to Billy’s memory as he has walked us through their legacy. We are fortunate to have his hand in ours.