Looking back on 40 years of an important Indianapolis institution – Inside Indiana Business

Karin Ogden (photo provided)

Medical technology advanced rapidly in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to major breakthroughs in the treatment of childhood cancer. This ultimately increased the survival rate of seriously ill children. Increasing survival rates were the product of long-term, inpatient treatment plans. Not all hospitals were able to provide this state-of-the-art care, requiring many families to travel farther from home to larger or more specialized hospitals such as Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis.

Because young patients stayed in the hospital longer to be cared for, families who wanted to be with their sick child often had nowhere to stay. They had to find somewhere to escape the confines of the hospital, which was still in close proximity, and not everyone could afford to stay in an expensive hotel for weeks or months. As a result, the first Ronald McDonald homes were built for families to stay in while their child was being treated.

25 cent hamburger day: the creatively effective fundraiser

In the late 1970’s, representatives of the McDonald’s corporation, restaurant owners/operators, individuals from Riley Children’s and Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and the local Indianapolis community came together to build a Ronald McDonald House. Nine people formed the founding board, and they estimated that it would cost $1.6 million to build the home and set a goal of opening completely debt-free.

A unique fundraising idea came from a McDonald’s owner/operator who suggested holding a “25 cent hamburger day” across the state and using all the money raised to build the house. To everyone’s pleasant surprise, the fundraiser was an enormous success. 1,668,000 hamburgers were sold that day, raising over $450,000.

Opening of the first Ronald McDonald House in Indiana

With help from across the state, the Ronald McDonald House opened near downtown Indianapolis on the IUPUI campus on October 14, 1982, after nearly three years of planning, fundraising, and construction. Located within walking distance of Riley, the home began providing supportive care to the families of sick and injured children receiving medical attention in the hospital Home away from home. The organization currently known as the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana (RMHCCIN) operates the Ronald McDonald House and two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms in Riley.

The impact of the home on our community

Over the past 40 years, thanks to the extensive network of donors and volunteers, the home has been able to expand and continue the mission of keeping families close and close to their hospitalized child. Until the Ronald McDonald houses appeared, most families had to sleep all night next to their child’s bed or in the uncomfortable chairs of the hospital lobby. Some parents even slept in their cars. They couldn’t focus on their children when their own well-being was compromised. Today, families can find peace and comfort in a place that feels like home that will transform their lives and make the Ronald McDonald House an enduring and meaningful institution in our Indianapolis community.

RMHCCIN celebrated its 40th anniversary of service this year. As hospitals grow and expand their services, RMHCCIN is poised for continued growth and expansion to support the current needs of more caregivers and in the ways they will need it for years to come. Studies show that children have better medical outcomes when they are close to and supported by family members. Indianapolis is very fortunate to have a nationally recognized children’s hospital right in its backyard, and RMHCCIN will always be right there to keep families close no matter what.

To find out how you can help RMHCCIN continue to serve families, visit