Our story began with 3-year-old Kim Hill, a vibrant little girl diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia in 1969, a time when treatment and research funding for pediatric cancers were not very advanced. Her father, former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, and mother Fran worked tirelessly to raise awareness and organized fundraisers, with help from Fred’s teammates and their wives, to support leukemia and other pediatric cancer organizations.
The Hill’s neighbor Stan Lane joined them in Kim’s cancer fight and proved to be a dedicated advocate. Lane organized the first Eagles wives’ fashion show and dinner and convinced then Eagles owner Leonard Tose to offer dedicated financial and player support to the cause. Eagles Fly for Leukemia (EFL) was Lane’s brainchild, and he created EFL in 1973 to coordinate fundraising efforts and to ensure all monies raised in the Philadelphia-area benefitted local hospitals and families. That same year, EFL was recognized as the official philanthropic arm of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Early fundraising supported pediatric oncologist Dr. Audrey Evans’s pediatric cancer program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Evans also envisioned a supportive residential environment available to parents whose children were undergoing treatments – a “home away from home.” EFL’s efforts inspired a partnership with the McDonald’s franchise and, in 1974, the first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia with Dr. Evans as co-founder. Now, more than 350 Ronald McDonald Houses, focused on “keeping families together and near the care they need” serve families in more than 64 countries and regions around the world.
In 1991, EFL became an independent non-profit organization and still enjoys support from the Philadelphia Eagles. Since inception, EFL’s Family Support Fund has helped more than 2,000 families pay non-medical expenses related to caring for a child with cancer, such as mortgages, utilities, and transportation to and from the hospital. We have donated more than $12 million to support leukemia and other pediatric cancer research at renowned children’s hospitals in Philadelphia and Delaware and provide ongoing resources to Ronald McDonald Houses in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. We have also awarded more than $5 million in college scholarships to help pediatric cancer survivors fulfill their dreams.
For more than 40 years, President Emeritus Lane remains active with Eagles Fly for Leukemia. Reflecting on EFL’s progress, he often says our organization is “Like an acorn that turned into a mighty oak.” We are proud of, and thankful for, the continued support we receive that allows us to positively impact the pediatric cancer community.
Sadly, Kim Hill lost her battle with cancer in March 2011. Her fight and her family’s determination to be together during her childhood leukemia treatments remain EFL’s inspiration.