Local Ronald McDonald House applauds corporation, local donors

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Fast food giant McDonald's takes your pennies at the counter to help support its Ronald McDonald House charity. But critics say the corporation is pinching pennies when it comes to its own giving.

Eyewitness News breaks down the numbers and takes you to a local house, where families say the value is priceless.

Tears come easy outside the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis.

"You really don't have to worry about anything when you're here except your kids," said Courtney Feliciano, choking back emotion. She is just back from Riley Children's Hospital and the bedside of her 11-year-old son Gabriel.

After five months of treatment, this may be their last day - Gabriel's cancer is in remission.

"I'm thankful because he did a good job getting through it. It's been hard on our family and everything, but God willing we won't have to see this place again. But I'm really thankful for it. I really am," she said.

Feliciano, of Fort Wayne, has no idea how much her family's stay at the Ronald McDonald House cost.

But a new study by Corporate Accountability International suggests the McDonald's Corporation isn't paying as much as you might think.

"I was surprised. You think a charity that bears the corporation's name, most people think it's 100 percent, when in fact it's not even close," said Michele Simon, the author of the report, speaking of the giving levels.

According to the study, McDonald's brings in $5.5 billion a year. Based on 2012 reports, the fast food giant spends $843 million in advertising, but only $34 million in charitable donations.

Simon says McDonald's is giving about 20 percent on a corporate level.

"At the local level, it's more like 10 percent, which is pretty shocking," Simon added.

"McDonald's of Central Indiana is a strong supporter of the house," countered Beth Johnson, the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis, where 1,400 families stay each year.

Johnson says fundraising is a way of life for most non-profits.

"It costs us right around $1.5-1.7 million to operate our house," explained Johnson. "We raise about 95 percent of that. A healthy not-for-profit organization wants a varied and robust donor base."

Johnson says individual giving tops all donations here in central Indiana, followed by corporate sponsors and then the McDonald's Corporation. But she's quick to point out it all adds up to give families like the Felicianos what they need at such a critical time.

"They have done a lot for us," Feliciano said, hugging her younger son Noe.

The McDonald's Corporation issued these statements in response to the Corporate Accountability International Report:

"This 'report' is shameful and misleading. We hesitate to even dignify it with a comment, but that would be a disservice to the McDonald's employees, franchisees, suppliers and customers who have partnered tirelessly to support the tremendous work of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) for the past nearly 40 years. This is a thinly-veiled attack on our brand at the expense of the millions of families and organizations who have benefited from RMHC. McDonald's categorically rejects this self-serving and biased document and stands proud of the significant financial support and volunteer hours we have and will continue to provide to RMHC and other charities worldwide," wrote Bridget Coffing, Senior Vice President of McDonald's Corporate Relations.

Friday night, the local Ronald McDonald House is having it's biggest fundraiser of the year downtown.