Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
A resident clown welcomes visitors to the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House.

by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 07/2008

A Ronald McDonald House is one of the tenants of Caltrans' Pasadena properties.

Among the stately older homes on Pasadena Avenue in the City of Pasadena, two in particular stand out for their Craftsman-style beauty and because of the clown sitting on the front porch.

The clown is none other than Ronald McDonald (in statue form), whose twin houses provide comfort and shelter to the families of children undergoing treatment in nearby hospitals. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) owns the two houses, built in 1912 by California Governor Henry H. Markham, and leases them to the Ronald McDonald House organization.

Caltrans restored the houses to historical perfection: the hardwood floors, staircases and built-in cabinets gleam; light fixtures are either original or period reproductions; and some of the bathrooms have the original claw foot tubs.

“The minute I walked in the door, I knew it was perfect,” said Pasadena Ronald McDonald House Executive Director Marchelle Sellers. “The arrangement met all of our needs with no modifications necessary. We just love it.”

The two houses together offer 10 private bedrooms, some with attached baths, two large kitchens and pantries, large common rooms and quiet areas, as well as laundry facilities. Outside, there are beautiful gardens, outdoor eating areas and play equipment for the children.

The Pasadena house is one of four operated in southern California. The others are in Loma Linda, Orange County and Los Angeles. The charity also operates a camp in Idyllwild.

Although the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House estimates that it costs about $150 per night to house a family in its Bed and Breakfast-like setting, guests are only asked for a $15 per night donation and even that is waived if a family can’t afford to pay. Some families only need to stay a day or two, while others can spend a year or more at the facility. One family resided there for 19 months, Sellers said.

In addition to housing, the charity also provides support and assistance, such as transportation, childcare, memberships to the Pasadena YMCA (donated by the Y) transfers to nearby schools for long-term guests and even a Russian tutor for one 17-year-old Russian girl so that she would be able to graduate with her class when she returned home. “Many groups work together to meet their needs,” Sellers said, including various organizations that come in and cook dinner about 15 days a month.

The Pasadena house, which will celebrate its 5-year anniversary at the Caltrans property next Valentines Day, is the 150th Ronald McDonald House in the U.S. There are 270 throughout the world. Despite the name, McDonald’s Corporation does not directly fund the charity. Roughly 10 percent of its funding comes from donation boxes located at individual McDonalds; the other 90 percent comes from outside donations. McDonalds Corp. does, however, donate food and supplies through vendors associated with the company.

Sellers has nothing but praise for the Department and its employees. “We’ve had a really, really good relationship with Caltrans, which was amazing during the process of getting our zoning variance to be here,” she said. “People are so happy to see the houses put to such good use.”

The Department agrees. “Caltrans is delighted to play a part in such positive efforts,” said Regional Property Services Manager Linda Wilford. “We are happy to support this community in any way we can.”









The living room of the main house provides a cosy retreat for families under stress. Marshelle Sellers, Executive Director of the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House and friend. Each house has a spacious yard where guests can relax, eat and enjoy family time. The main house is right next door to the Ronald McDonald statue.