Friends of RMH, Inc., a non-profit Florida corporation, was chartered on February 7, 1979 for the purpose of establishing a Ronald McDonald House to support UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Originally the group hoped to find an existing house to adapt, however none could be found close to the hospital. The group decided to build a new House from the ground up. Groundbreaking was held on July 8, 1981, and exactly one year to the day, the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville opened its doors. The original House had 18 rooms, was built without the help of a professional sports team, and was the first Ronald McDonald House built from the ground-up. The Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville was later renamed the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida to express the growing area the House serves. The House now operates 31 rooms and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On average, 1,000 families are served each year.
In 2002, along with its 20th anniversary of service, Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida celebrated the opening of the Ronald McDonald Family Room located adjacent to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. The Ronald McDonald Family Room provides a peaceful oasis 7 days a week with a small kitchen, private sleeping room and chairs, telephone, television computer and friendly volunteers. The Ronald McDonald Family Room serves over 7,000 individuals, about 3,500 families each year.
Through the operation and funding of the two programs, the Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald Family Room in UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida has served more than 31,000 families from all of Florida’s 67 counties, plus 48 other states and 34 foreign countries.