Stanford’s School of Medicine was originally located in San Francisco, where its hospital provided pediatric services. In 1919 the School opened a Convalescent Home for Children in Palo Alto. The “Con Home,” as it was popularly known, marked the beginning of what would became Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
McDonald spent a considerable amount of his free time at the Convalescent Home entertaining the children by singing, telling stories, and playing his concertina.
I had the pleasure of sitting among those… children and breaking bread at their tables and feeling that no greater honor could be bestowed.
In 1920, when Stanford students began an annual Labor Day volunteer clean-up of the Convalescent Home grounds, McDonald provided a barbecue at the end of the day - a tradition that continued for decades.
During World War II McDonald planted a five-acre Victory Garden at the Convalescent Home, supplying it with produce such as corn, beets, carrots, tomatoes, squash, and sugar cane when food was otherwise scarce.