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Ronald McDonald Houses enter Final Four frenzy

The Ronald McDonald Houses in Lexington and Louisville have launched a friendly "competition" this week leading up to Saturday's big game.

The "Final Four Countdown for Kids" competition celebrates the fact that two in-state teams have not played against each other in the Final Four in 50 years. It is also to raise awareness of Kentucky's two Ronald McDonald House programs.

Fans are encouraged to vote for their favorite Ronald McDonald House or team by making a "school spirit" financial contribution online before Saturday's 6:05 p.m. tip-off between the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals.

In the spirit of teamwork, the money raised will be split evenly between the Lexington and Louisville Ronald McDonald Houses.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass exists to create and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and to strengthen families by keeping them together in times of medical need.

The idea of a home for families of hospital patients first developed in Philadelphia in 1973. Fred Hill, a member of the Philadelphia Eagles football team learned that his daughter had leukemia. During the course of her successful treatment, Hill and his team members and management asked what they could possibly do to help the children's hospital. The idea of a place for children's families to stay was born at that time.

In Lexington, this same need was recognized by doctors and parents of children who had undergone treatment in area hospitals. The Fayette County Medical Society and Auxiliary, parents, McDonald's representatives and other volunteers formed a non-profit organization to establish and operate the Ronald McDonald House of Lexington.

The University of Kentucky Athletic Department provided a 1.43 acre site near Commonwealth Stadium convenient to all area medical centers.

Successful fundraising by committed volunteers resulted in a 17 bedroom House opening debt-free in December 1984. Since that time, the Lexington Ronald McDonald House has served over 25,000 families. While most of these have come from central and eastern Kentucky, the House has served families from all parts of Kentucky, 38 states and 10 foreign countries.

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