Published on June 25, 2020

Essentia Health announces plans for Northland’s first Ronald McDonald House

Ronald McDonald is coming to Duluth.

No, not the big guy with supersized shoes and a shock of bright red hair, but rather a five-bedroom home away from home bearing his name that will feed and provide respite for families of pediatric patients at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The Essentia Health Foundation on Thursday made the exciting announcement alongside Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest (RMHC-UM). Ronald McDonald House Northland will be located adjacent to St. Mary’s Medical Center — on the fourth floor of our Fifth Avenue Building at 503 E Third St. It’s expected to open late this fall. Construction will begin in July.

“We know our pediatric families have needed a space like this for some time,” said Derek Groves, chief development officer for the Essentia Health Foundation. “That is why we’re so thrilled to finally see this happen, so we can support these families during one of the most difficult times in their lives. We are immensely grateful to our many donors for helping to make this dream a reality.”

A Ronald McDonald House provides families of young patients a temporary space to call home during a time of uncertainty — at no cost. Consequently, they can remain close by and focus on their child’s wellbeing without the financial burdens of lodging, travel and food. In Duluth, for example, the average cost of a hotel room, even at Essentia’s discounted medical rate, is $135. In 2018, our pediatric patients’ average hospital stay was four days, though many stay much longer than that.

In addition to five private bedrooms, Essentia’s Ronald McDonald House Northland will feature a full kitchen, family room, laundry, pantry with available dry goods and more. As a result, five families will be able to reside in the house simultaneously. Dinner will be served seven days a week, and brunch will be included on the weekends.

Priority for pediatric patient families will be determined by social workers, and it will be based on the severity of the child’s medical needs.

“This Ronald McDonald House is an extension of Essentia’s mission and values,” says Essentia Health CEO David C. Herman, MD. “Through my patients and in my role as a member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Board of Trustees, I have had the privilege to personally witness the profound positive impact a Ronald McDonald House has on children and families in their times of greatest need.”

With Thursday’s news, Essentia Health will be even better equipped to provide compassionate care for our littlest and most vulnerable patients, as well as their families. Hospital stays can be scary, especially when they involve children. We want to help reduce the stress on families during those trying times as we strive to make a healthy difference in people’s lives.

As the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ saying goes, “Our homes are filled with more than help — they’re filled with hope.”

“Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest is proud to partner with Essentia Health to serve families who are facing a child’s health crisis by providing lodging, food, support and comfort,” said Jill Evenocheck, president and CEO of RMHC-UM. “The ability of families to stay close during a child’s illness without the stress of managing day-to-day essential needs is a priceless component of the entire medical experience. We are grateful to be able to provide that service in Duluth.”

Added David Wright, board chair of RMHC-UM: “This is Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest’s fifth location — the first outside of the Twin Cities — since our inception in 1979. My parents were part of the original Ronald McDonald House founders, inspired by my own brother’s childhood cancer experience. I couldn’t be more pleased with this opportunity for RMHC-UM and Essentia Health to serve more families across the state and region.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest is a 501(c)3 organization that provides a comfortable and caring home away from home for families during the treatment of a child’s serious illness, injury or disability. Based in Minneapolis, the organization operates four locations in the Twin Cities and serves more than 6,700 families each year. Additional information can be found at

Help us support the Ronald McDonald House
The Essentia Health Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is embarking on a campaign in support of Ronald McDonald House Northland. With your help, the Essentia Health Foundation will provide ongoing operational funding and capital-improvement opportunities for the project. To learn more or get involved, please visit our Ronald McDonald House webpage.

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