Our House Mission
RMHC-NEKS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that owns and operates Topeka’s Ronald McDonald House. Our mission is to keep families close by providing a comfortable and conveniently located home for parents and loved ones who have children receiving medical care at area hospitals. Many families must travel far from home to receive medical treatment for their children, which places a large financial and psychological burden on families. RMHC-NEKS enables families to stay together during one of the most stressful times in their lives. Here, families can sleep in a comfortable private room, have a warm meal, relax, and find support from our staff, volunteers, and other guest families.
The seeds for the first Ronald McDonald House were planted when Kim Hill, the three-year-old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight-end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. Hill and his wife camped out on hospital chairs and benches, ate food from vending machines and did all they could to keep Kim from seeing their sadness, exhaustion, and frustration.
All around them the Hills saw other parents doing the same thing. They learned that many of the families had traveled great distances to bring their children to the medical facility. The high-cost of hotel rooms was prohibitive. They continued to think there has to be a better way.
Hill rallied the support of his teammates to raise funds to help other families experiencing the same emotional and financial traumas as his own. Through the Philadelphia Eagles’ General Manager Jim Murray, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It was Dr. Evans’ dream of a house that could serve as a temporary residence for families of children being treated at her hospital that led to opening of the first RMHC in 1974.
The name was chosen because the originators wanted to pick something easily identifiable for children. Ronald McDonald is a happy character who portrays fun, love and hope for all. Children are comforted knowing their families are staying with someone they think of as a friend.
McDonald’s restaurants do not own the Ronald McDonald Houses. However, McDonald’s owner/operators are considered to be the mission partner of RMHC Global and RMHC-NEKS. Area McDonald’s owners/operators provide significant levels of support, and the RMHC-NEKS bylaws include a McDonald’s representative as a required member of the Board of Directors. On average, Topeka’s Ronald McDonald House receives approximately eight percent (8%) of its annual operating budget through McDonald’s Donation Box and Round-Up collections, along with Penny per Pound of Fries and Happy Meals sold at McDonald’s restaurants across northeastern Kansas. Additional sponsorship funds are typically provided each year.
1906-1910 Joseph B. Betts builds a house located at 825 SW Buchanan Street, Topeka, the site for the future RMHC. Golden oak, mahogany, and pine were used throughout the home. It was designed by Holland & Squires and cost $20,000 to construct. Betts was a general contractor and vice-president of the German American State Bank. He also served as a state senator.
1914 Albert and Ellen (Ella) Neese purchased the house from Betts’ estate. Georgia Neese (1898-1995) was 14 when she moved into the house with her parents and sister Helen. She graduated from Topeka High School in 1917 and from Washburn University in 1921 with a degree in Economics, living here off-and-on until the late 1920s. Georgia Neese Clark Gray was appointed by President Truman as the first female treasurer of the US in 1949 and served until 1953. She was a banker, investor, and philanthropist, supporting the arts and education throughout her life.
1952 The house sold several times after Ella’s death, first to Robert Freeman then
to John Wagner and later, Maurice Burns.
1959 The house was purchased by the Honorable Alfred Schroeder, State Supreme Court Justice, and his wife Katherine.
1980 First feasibility study for RMHC of Northeast Kansas conducted.
1985 Stormont-Vail Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opens; Junior League of Topeka
conducts second feasibility study.
1986 Articles of Incorporation filed for Topeka’s Love for Children. First trustees
are James & Bonita Garrett, Michelle Rorabaugh, Judy Megibow, Susan Fry,
and Nancy Stone.
1987 Topeka’s Love for Children establishes 22-member board. Kathleen Ruediger was the organization’s first President.
1987 Topeka’s Love for Children purchases the residence at 825 SW Buchanan Street as the location for RMHC-NEKS. Also purchased were the three adjacent properties behind the House.
1987 Year-long renovation begins. Extensive interior construction took place, including bathrooms for each guest room, new mechanical systems and roof, and an extended rear addition. The subdivision is zoned for 10 guest rooms.
1988 A capital campaign raised $500,000 of its $1.2 million goal to complete construction and fund the first year of House operations.
1988 RMHC-NEKS opens its doors. Carolyn Voth is the first House Manager. She
and her family lived in the two-story house directly behind RMHC-NEKS (better known as the Lincoln House). The suggested donation to stay is $8 per night. Ours is one of 112 Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide.
1988 Historic Topeka presented its 1988 Preservation Award to the Ronald
McDonald House for its preservation and adaptive reuse of the residence.
1990 John Hayes, chairperson of KPL Gas Service, led capital campaign to raise $1.1 million and establish endowment for operational funding. A Bob Hope benefit concert was held at Landon Arena.
1993 Requested donation amount is increased to $10 per night. More than 2,900
families have been served.
1993 Joan Kroc (third wife of McDonald’s CEO Ray Croc and a philanthropist)
donates 10,000 shares of McDonald’s stock for endowment and operational
expenses to each Ronald McDonald House in the country.
1995 The original 30-year, $1.2 million mortgage is paid off 23 years early.
Approximately 15,000 people representing 4,000 families have been served.
1996 Topeka’s Love for Children merges with RMHC-NEKS. Our House is one of 127 in the US and 168 worldwide.
2000 Stormont Vail West assumes behavioral treatment for adolescents.
2003 The John Kroc estate provides a financial gift for operational expenses to each Ronald McDonald House. Larger houses receive $500,000; smaller $250,000. We receive $250,000.
2005 Stormont-Vail Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is expanded; its 27-bed facility is
2008 Recruitment efforts for guest families are extended to other organizations. RMHC NEKS begins serving families from Stormont Vail West.
2008 Our 20th anniversary year. The room donation request is $15 per night. More than 20,000 families have been served. There are 277 Houses worldwide.
2009 RMHC-NEKS becomes a Medicaid provider.
2010 Five-year facility enhancement fundraising begins with a goal of $350,000.
2012 The suggested room donation fee is increased to $25 per night.
2013 RMHC-NEKS celebrates its 25th anniversary.
2015 The Lincoln House is torn down.
2015 Mindee Reece is hired as CEO/Executive Director.
2018 RMHC-NEKS celebrates its 30th anniversary.
2019 Three new neonatal specialists are hired by Stormont Vail Health. For the first time, families experience placement on a waitlist to check-in at RMHC. Due to the continued plentiful nature of and other pantry items, RMHC begins sharing items with Stormont Vail to lend support to all NICU families, not just the ones staying at the House.
2020 In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and at the direction of RMHC Global, RMHC temporarily closes its doors on April 25. A COVID-19 Mission Forward Plan was developed, approved by RMHC Global, and implemented, allowing the House to reopen for guest families on June 8. During the temporary closure, funds were provided by Tom & Marilyn Dobski, Brad Noller, and the Topeka Community Foundation to house families of hospitalized children at the nearby Ramada Inn.
2021 Two significant home improvement projects were completed. The kitchen was completely redesigned and remodeled thanks to a $50,000 donation from McDonald’s owners/operators Tom & Marilyn Dobski in honor of their mutual milestone birthdays. RMHC kitchen renamed “Josephine & Jane’s Kitchen” to honor Tom & Marilyn’s mothers and acknowledge the Dobski’s significant financial contributions. The floors on the first floor were transformed from blue carpet to their original hardwood beauty.