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Philanthropist Diane Donald on how Ronald McDonald House keeps families connected to their hospitalized children

September 10, 2013

By Diane Donald, Special to Chicago Sun-Times

This article has been reposted courtesy of Chicago Splash, a Chicago Sun-Times publication.

CHICAGO- About a year ago, my husband, PGA Tour golfer Luke Donald, and I walked into the Ronald McDonald House near the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago for the first time. Like many others, while I had heard of the charity, I had no idea what happened inside.

What we walked into that day was a home in the heart of Streeterville. There were families sitting down to lunch, kids doing crafts and people enjoying the sunshine on the rooftop. We learned that Ronald McDonald House provides “a home away from home” for families of hospitalized children; in this case, children being treated at Lurie, just a couple blocks away.

The Donald family (from left) Diane, Sophia, Ellie and Luke.

Staying at a Ronald McDonald House gives families a way to be close to their hospitalized child. It also provides them with a welcoming environment where they are surrounded by other families in similar situations. The whole place emits positivity and fosters togetherness and community. Families are referred by hospital staff, and a $10 donation per night is recommended — but no one is ever turned away. While about 20 percent of Ronald McDonald House’s annual operating costs come from donations made to the canisters at McDonald’s restaurants, it remains an independent charity.

The cause hits close to home for Luke and me. Both of our girls were hospitalized in the first year of their lives, so we’ve experienced that feeling of helplessness. Our oldest, Ellie, was born four weeks premature, and had to spend a week in the NICU at Prentice. Her heart was beating too slowly at times, and she had apnea and jaundice, so she had to be monitored until she was healthy enough to come home. Our youngest, Sophia, was born with a nevus sebaceous, a skin-colored birthmark behind her ear that was removed with two operations before her first birthday because of its cancerous potential. Leaving the hospital without the girls was one of the hardest things we have ever done. Luckily, I was able to spend all day at the hospital, drive home to sleep, then go back again first thing in the morning, but what about the parents who don’t have this luxury? That’s where the House comes in.

Luke and I recently developed the fundraising program “Birdies Fore the House,” where supporters join Luke’s team and pledge to donate to the House for every birdie Luke makes in 2013 (we have already raised more than $50,000 this year). And on Sept. 11, my fellow PGA Tour Wives and I will be making lunch for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s. I am excited to be bringing these two organizations together, as both are committed to improving the lives of children and families.

Hopefully the next time you walk by a Ronald McDonald House or you see the canister by the McDonald’s register, you’ll feel inspired to get involved in the incredible work that goes on inside the House walls.

For information on the many ways you can get involved, visit or

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