In 1969, when she was 3, Hill was diagnosed with Leukemia; her parents were told she would not likely live another six months. But her parents pursued aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, making long hospital stays a major part of Hill’s young life. In 1971 her parents decided to help raise money for the Leukemia Society of America in her honor, and with help from the Philadelphia Eagles (her father was a tight end on the team), they raised $10,000 on their first try. With that success, Mr. Hill decided to start a new charity, Eagles Fly for Leukemia, and the next year they raised $125,000.
The Hills asked a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for suggestions on how to spend the money. Dr. Audrey Evans suggested temporary housing near the hospital, for families to stay in when children were in the hospital for cancer treatments. For the next fundraiser, quarterback Roman Gabriel agreed to help promote a new “Shamrock Shake” for local McDonald’s franchises if they would donate a portion of the profits to the project. The franchisees had a counteroffer: call the family stay houses after the “Ronald McDonald” mascot, and they’d donate ALL the proceeds. And with that, the Ronald McDonald House Charities was born. The first “house” opened in Philadelphia in 1974, and there are now 302 houses for the families of sick children in 30 countries, all inspired by one sick little girl. The girl survived and grew up, and became the spokeswoman for Ronald McDonald House. But as a side-effect of her radiation treatments, Kim Hill developed brain tumors. In 1991, her family stayed for the first time at a Ronald McDonald House when she went in for treatment of those tumors. They finally caught up with her, and she died from them on March 5. She was 44.