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History of Ronald McDonald House of San Diego

San Diego's Ronald McDonald House is here today thanks to the efforts of a social worker, Irma Gusfield, and a group of parents she brought together in a support group for families of young cancer patients.

Several of these parents had lost a child to cancer, and they knew firsthand the need for such simple supports as a bed and bath close to the hospital. They saw that the first Ronald McDonald House had opened in Philadelphia in 1974, with the help of McDonald's head Ray Kroc.


Our founders learned from the experiences of other Houses and succeeded in establishing the twentieth Ronald McDonald House in the nation. This 8-bedroom House operated primarily as a bed and breakfast service for families with young cancer patients. 

We added four bedrooms in 1989 in response to increasing demand. Yet as our region's population grew, and as pediatric treatments advanced, we were turning away 100 families a month because we had no space in our House. We subsidized hotel stays for families as best we could, but we needed to do better for families in crisis.

To meet the growing need for our specific services, we worked with our partners to design and build a new House with 47 guest rooms. It sits on top of a six-story parking structure directly across from Rady Children's Hospital. At nearly two football fields long, it is four times the size of the previous House and has quadrupled our capacity to house families. It includes a variety of shared living areas, pleasant outdoor courtyards, and cheerful play spaces for children. 

We welcomed families to our new House in July 2009. Since then, we've added a Family Care Center that's open during the day to anyone with a child in a local hospital, offering meals, computer access, laundry facilities, and more. In 2010, we opened an onsite school for the siblings of hospitalized children, in partnership with San Diego Unified School District.

Families have come from as far away as Ireland, France, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Guam, and as close asRMH_2011
 San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties. We've hosted families whose children are being treated at most major hospitals in San Diego County, including Rady Children’s Hospital, UCSD Medical Center, Balboa Naval Hospital, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, Scripps Memorial Hospital, Mercy Hospital and Kaiser Permanente.