Optimist Club hosts Ronald McDonald House executive director

Sue Beverly, executive director of Ronald McDonald House, started out as a volunteer during the the organization’s first year.

“It’s just absolutely amazing. It’s hard to believe we just celebrated 31 years,” she said.

Beverly spoke to Optimist Club of West Knoxville at Season’s Innovative Bar & Grill Thursday, June 23.

She said the house has had 53,000 visitors since its opening date. Ronald McDonald House is for patients under 21 and their families.

Beverly said cancer and leu-kemia were common conditions for affected patients. Summer was a busy time due to accidents happening to families passing through on vacation.

Ronald McDonald House’s reach extends beyond downtown Knoxville, she said.

“If there’s a 21-year-old or younger patient from Tennova, those families would be able to stay,” she said.

Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Cemter and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Rehabilit-ation Center off Westland Drive also are eligible hospitals. She said Ronald McDonald House had received patients and their families from eight di-fferent hospitals last year.

“As long as a child is sick and being treated, they’re welcome to stay,” she said.

Beverly said town of Farragut has adopted Knoxville Ronald McD-onald House for years with the Freaky Friday Fright NIte event in October. The event is free but visitors are welcome to bring donations.

“In a nutshell if somebody said, ‘What is the Ronald McDonald House?’ I would tell them it’s the story of a young girl and how her life has touched the world,” she said.

Ronald McDonald House dates back to the early 1970s, when the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles player Fred Hill was diagnosed with leukemia. He started a charity called Eagles Fly for Leu-kemia.

After buying equipment for a local hospital, the organization then took up the cause, proposed to it by Dr. Audrey Evans, of creating a home away from home for families of young patients.

“If patients could sleep in a real bed with a real kitchen, they could have real meals, not just snacks out of the vending machine, everybody would heal faster.

“It would make a very difficult situation a lot more bearable,” she said, summarizing Evans’ idea,” she said.

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in 1974. The name comes from McDonald’s deciding to donate money from Shamrock Shake proceeds. McDonald’s restaurants in the Knoxville area collect for Knoxville Ronald McDonald House using collection boxes.