‘Merica: The Charitable Past of McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

It’s elusiveness and cult-like following would lead one to believe that the Shamrock Shake is merely folklore. Nearly everyone has heard of it, people have searched for it and details of the stories associated with it, but few have been able to find it and even fewer know the story of its origins.

The Shamrock Shake was first launched in 1970 as part of a St. Patrick’s day promotion whereby McDonald’s would offer the enticingly named mint shake for a limited run. It’s popularity grew in 1974 behind the initiative of then Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill. Hill’s daughter was battling leukemia at the time and during frequent hospital visits, Hill took note of other families forced to travel long distances for medical care often without the means to afford hotels or otherwise manage the costs involved. Eager to find a solution, Hill was put in contact with Dr. Audrey Evans, a pediatric oncologist who had envisioned the concept of developing homes where families could stay during treatment. The Eagles teamed up with McDonald’s to run a promotion on Shamrock Shakes through which all the proceeds of the shakes would go towards this cause.  Enough money was raised to purchase a seven bedroom house nearby the hospital in Philadelphia, which would become the first Ronald McDonald House.

Today the promotional shake still pops up in select areas for a few weeks immediately before and after St. Patrick’s Day. Tipster-driven tracking websites like www.shamrockshake.com can help you find the shake within this limited window without having to wander into every McDonald’s that you pass in search of it.