In His Words: 40 Years

Bill Gormley and his wife, Karlene, are one of the founding families of the Northland House, which was later renamed the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota, and is celebrating its 40 years serving children and families…in his own words!

When we started the Northland House, our 13-year-old son, Dan, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We started the appointments at the Mayo Clinic.

As he received treatments, we connected with three pediatric oncologists who became an important part of the core that group that started the Northland House. While our son received radiation and chemotherapy, we met with many parents who were experiencing the same problems with their children. We knew we had to be able to share in our concerns.

Shortly after those initial discussions, we met Phil Henoch, who owned the McDonald’s restaurants in Rochester. He was the important driving force who joined with us and soon we were able to start a home away from home for children and families facing that dreaded diagnosis of childhood cancer.

The key to starting the House was finding excellent and devoted board members who truly believed in our mission. So many people—even non-board members—contributed so much time and effort to our cause. We started by meeting at a home and had our final meeting in a church. It was at that meeting that I was voted in as the first president for two years—an honor and a great responsibility!

Thanks to Phil Henoch, we were able to visit the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago. It was a great and inspiring trip. However, after this trip, we were told that the Rochester area could not fund our House in Rochester at that time.

That did not stop us! We opted to proceed on our own. We purchased a house between the clinic and Saint Marys. We named it the Northland House!

We accomplished so much because numerous people helped. Carpenters, painters, mechanics, and electricians donated their time and worked on the House for credits for their apprenticeships. It was incredible!

Once the House was finished and the board, committees, operations, and volunteers were in place…we had the dedication. It was very emotional for many of us. The mayor was in attendance and spoke eloquently—it was so special!

We know without all the volunteer hours…we would have nothing. We accomplished our goals. We were up and running and helping so many children and families.

Our House has grown immensely. It is one of the best Ronald McDonald Houses in the country and the world. The new House is a beautiful, safe place for families.

I could go on and on about our House!

Love and blessings to all,
Bill Gormley

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