You Can Thank the Eagles for the Shamrock Shake

Around St. Patrick’s Day I am sure you have noticed McDonalds advertising their popular but seasonal Shamrock Shake.  It has a smooth minty flavor and bears my favorite color; green. Whether you are a fan of this popular shake or not, you might find the story of how it originated interesting.  If it wasn’t for our Philadelphia Eagles, it might not exist.  What I find humorous is there are Cowboys fans out there that like the shake and it’s all because of the Eagles.  Take that Dallas!

WHO IS FRED HILL?

Drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 4th Round of the 1965 NFL Draft, Tight End Fred Hill was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles shortly after the draft.  He spent his entire career from 1965-71 wearing Eagles green.  He started for the majority of his career, totaling 85 receptions for 1,005 yards and five Touchdowns.  His career numbers are not why his name is known; it is what happened after his career concluded that makes him stand out.

HEARTBREAK IN THE HILL HOUSEHOLD

In 1969, Fred and his wife Fran’s three-year-old daughter Kim was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia.  This is the most common childhood cancer that is cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.  Fred and Fran was told Kim only had 6 months to live.  Anna Orso of Billypenn.com writes, Fred and his wife spent the better part of the next three years driving back and forth from South Jersey, where they lived, to St. Christopher’s in North Philly for her treatment. She was exceeding the six-month prognosis doctor’s had given her years before.  This was taking a toll on them because they didn’t know how much longer she would beat the odds.

Kim Hill and her father Fred Hill. Photo courtesy of the Hill family.

THE EAGLES SWOOP IN

Eagles owner, Leonard Tose, was known to be a generous man.  He was a multi-millionaire that not only raised money to fight leukemia, but he also gave thousands to fund local high school sports programs.  Even after Hill retired in 1971, Tose wanted to stay involved.  That’s when Hill, his neighbor Stan Lane and Tose started a group called Eagles Fly for Leukemia.  The goal was to raise money for families that couldn’t afford their children’s treatment.  Eagles General Manager, Jimmy Murray, met with the doctors treating Kim to see what exactly they needed to improve their facilities and help families.  Dr. Lawrence Namain was one of the doctors he met with and was told their facility was over 100 years old and they pretty much needed everything but there was someone that needed help even more.  Namain referred Murray to Dr. Audrey Evans of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Evans had a laundry list of needs especially because they were moving locations.  She was asked how much it would cost to fund two rooms.  She replied with $50,000 but Tose had another number in mind, a million dollars.  After a couple charity events, the first $125,000 was raised and Murray presented Evans with the check.  Eagles writer, Julie Bacanskas writes the first Eagles donations went toward creating two positive pressure rooms, which are used for patients with compromised immune systems.

Ronald McDonald, Jimmy Murray, and Audrey Evans. Photo courtesy of McDonalds

HERE COMES THE SHAMROCK SHAKE

Audrey Evans’ biggest dream was to provide somewhere for families to stay that lived far away and had children in the hospital.  A house would be needed.  Jimmy Murray reached out to former co-worker Don Tuckerman whose adverting firm has the McDonalds account.  He asked him what their next promotion was going to be.  St. Patrick’s Day was right around the corner and their next promotion was going to be the Shamrock Shake.  Ok, the shake wasn’t invented for the Eagles but it’s because of the Eagles that the popularity of the shake took off.  Murray asked if McDonald’s was willing to donate 25 cents of each shake toward the house.  McDonalds regional manager, Ed Rensi, replied “‘What if we give you all the money? Can we call it the Ronald McDonald House?’”  Opening in October of 1974, the very first Ronald McDonald House was funded solely on funds raised by the Shamrock Shake.  So not only did the Shamrock Shake gain its popularity because of the Eagles, the Eagles kick-started the Ronald McDonald House.  According to the Ronald McDonalds House Charities website, there are more than 365 Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the United States and world, with local chapters in 64 countries and regions.  All of this because of the vision of one doctor and the Philadelphia Eagles.  For one week a year, Philadelphia-area McDonalds still donate part of the Shamrock Shake proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House.

Kim Hill dances with her dad Fred Hill at a charity dinner in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy the Hill family.

Kim Hill beat the odds and lived to be 44 years old.  She passed away in 2011 from brain tumors that were thought to be caused by the radiation she received when she was three.

It all started with a dream to help families in need.  The Ronald McDonald House is known worldwide, and it all began in the City of Brotherly Love.  There are many reasons I am proud to call myself a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.  This reason is definitely near the top of the list.  No matter the owner, general manager or any other front office exec., the Eagles always go above and beyond to help those in the community.

What are your thoughts on the Eagles, the Shamrock Shake, and the Ronald McDonald House?  Do you know or have you had to stay at one of the houses?  Please comment below.  I would love to hear what’s on your mind.

5 comments

  1. Great story Matt! When our son Chris had his brain surgery @ CHOP in 1999, we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. It was a wonderful experience that tempered a very difficult time for us. If you ever get the chance to see it in person, please do so….it is an incredible place. I never knew how instrumental the Eagles were to its opening, but will forever be grateful to both them and McDonalds for giving us an affordable haven when we desperately needed one. I will never look at a shamrock shake the same way again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh man, we all know milkshakes and scales don’t mix. It’s like oil and water. Just make sure when you get one, it’s in Philly. That way you know money is still going to the RMDH.

      Like

  2. What an awesome read. I learned so much. Surprisingly, I have never heard of the Shamrock Shake. I also didn’t know that the Ronald McDonald House was started in Philly. I volunteered for the Ronald McDonald house when I was in high school in Raleigh, NC. It is an amazing organization.

    Liked by 1 person

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