The Kevin Guest House Story

Kevin Guest House is America’s first independent healthcare hospitality house. For 50 years, we’ve provided a comfortable and supportive home away from home for patients and families traveling to receive state of the art healthcare in Buffalo.

Founded in 1972 by Cyril & Claudia Garvey of Sharon, PA in honor of their son Kevin who sadly lost his battle with leukemia, KGH is the inspiration for the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, PA and more than 600 similar houses across the country and worldwide.

More than 60,000 guests have stayed at KGH since its inception, mostly originating from WNY and the Southern Tier, but also including guests from 49 states, Canada, and 11 other countries. Patients and their families are welcome regardless of age, medical condition, or healthcare provider.

“If you are lucky enough to have just one good idea and work really hard on it, it makes life all worthwhile.”

The house at 782 Ellicott Street, Buffalo was just such an idea.
Cyril Garvey


At the age of 13, Kevin was diagnosed with leukemia and their family’s lives changed in an instant. The second youngest of 8 siblings, Kevin and his parents Cy and Claudia travelled frequently to then Roswell Park Memorial Hospital for their specialized treatment. Kevin Garvey was nicknamed “heart,” given after a family vacation because of his kindhearted nature. His mother Claudia said, “in the eighteen months that Kevin lived with his illness, that finally conquered even his stout heart, he served constantly as a model and an example for all of us.” Kevin was able to see the houses, but sadly passed on January 14, 1972. His parents Cyril & Claudia continued their work to honor Kevin’s legacy and opened the house to its first guest on July 26, 1972, with the support from then Roswell Park Memorial Hospital, so that future generations of patients & caregivers could focus on their health and worry less about the financial burdens that accompany life threatening illnesses away from home. 

During his treatment, the Garvey’s became aware of many other families traveling for care who were unable to find affordable lodging, some even sleeping in their cars. They knew they needed to help, and Claudia & Cyril Garvey lovingly founded the House as a lasting tribute to Kevin.


Kevin was one of eight children in the Garvey family. His sibling share memories of Kevin, and thoughts on his legacy here:

  • Most of all, he showed his entire family and those blessed to be around him both during his life but most especially during his illness, what courage, Faith, strength, grit, and a still sharp wit could do even in the face of his illness-the most extreme of challenges. -Hugh
  • One of the greatest treasures I think for me, if not the greatest treasure and lasting treasure of Kevin’s life, was his humility. I never recall him complaining about his suffering, fretting about the future, or rejecting his illness. May his intercession bring to all who find shelter at his Home, equal portions of the grace God poured on our brother. – Annette
  • We never would have imagined that the timid little boy he was would be an example of bravery to all of us. -John
  • Heaven exists. There is another life beyond what we can see. It is already here, it has always been, and it will never end. So when Kevin’s hair fell out, and he became thin and weak, he told me he was not afraid. He knew he was about go there. He knew he would still somehow be with us. And he knew he would meet us there. Kevin would want us all to know. There is nothing to be afraid of. Thank you to all the Kevin Guest House family who make love present every day. -Margaret

As brother Denis said, over the last 50 years, “Kevin Guest House has become a beacon of hope providing shelter, comfort, and understanding to those in times of incredible need”. In 2016, we delved into our history writing a book about the house and learned more about Jimmy Murray, one of the founders of Ronald McDonald House Philadelphia, and his visit to Kevin Guest House that inspired his involvement in the Shamrock Shake fundraiser that help start our sister charities first house. Now there are more than over 600 similar organizations worldwide and that small idea of the Garvey family has impacted millions along with over 60,000 families traveling to Buffalo for life-saving care. A treasure in the heart of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and one of the very best examples of the City of Good Neighbors, the work we do, directly provides the dignity, compassion, and the “family” our guests need in some of the hardest days.  

Reflecting on the past 50 years, much has changed on campus, but the heart of our mission has always remained. As brother Hugh said, “Kevin was only with us here on Earth for 13 short years, but he has left a good and kind and everlasting footprint on our world. May Kevin Guest House continue to serve those, like Kevin, at their most needed time, with a place of comfort, love and life.

As sister Mary said, Kevin Guest House “shines through all of you who open his doors to all those in need”. 


Kevin Guest House, an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, our campus is made up of four properties. Our Main original blue House has 10 guest rooms which can host 20 Individuals, our Carriage House and Yellow Brick buildings house four transplant recovery apartments, while our newly opened Russell J. Salvatore Hospitality House has four large family suites that accommodate up to six guests each and two additional transplant recovery apartments.
Typically, guests of the main Garvey House stay for an average of five nights, while guests of our transplant recovery apartments stay an average of 10 nights. We welcome 2,000 guests to our campus each year, 90% of whom are adults and primarily from WNY.

We recommend our guests offer a $25 lodging donation per person, per night for those staying in a guest room or suite with a flat $50 per night for guests staying in one of our transplant recovery apartments.
This atmosphere of caring and hospitality allows families to focus on their loved ones without the stress of finding temporary, affordable accommodations. Everyone is welcome regardless of their age, medical condition, or which hospital they’re visiting. No guest is ever turned away because of their inability to afford the suggested lodging donation. We are committed to hosting any guest we can accommodate, regardless of their ability to pay. On average, the actual revenue that we receive in lodging donations is $11 per person, per night.

With the help of our generous community of donors like you, we can continue to keep families together during medical crisis.

Together is the best medicine


It is this community that has kept our doors open to the 2,000 patients and their caregivers each year. We rely on the generous time & talents of hundreds of volunteers that help with multiple tasks ranging from answering phones, greeting guests, serving a home cooked meal, keeping our gardens beautiful, cleaning and supporting our fundraising efforts.

Some of our best volunteers have been friends at the local hospitals who want to give even more to their patients. Kitty, dedicated friend with a career in nursing, organized her School of Nursing Alumni to host a pay it forward fundraiser for the guests who couldn’t afford to pay our modest $25 lodging donation. Joanne, retired after decades as a patient resource center director runs our group dinner program. Communicating with each new group and planning the menus for our guests. Kathy and her physical therapy team, not only do group dinners, but come routinely to help with the gardens & organize the house. Board member Christina of Mercy Hospital is often encouraging her nursing teams and colleagues by hosting gatherings or volunteering at the house.

Our small house with a big heart needs the help of many people to keep our doors open to more guests each year. We are committed to hosting any guest we can accommodate, regardless of their ability to pay.  With the help of our generous community of donors like you, we are able to continue to keep families together during medical crisis.

Brother Tom Garvey often quoted Francis of Assisi when reflecting on the mission and the work we continue to do provide dignity and compassion to our guests during some of the most critical times in their lives. Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

You are the reason that Kevin’s legacy lives on for our families and will continue for the next 50 years.