The First Ladies: A Tradition of Supporting Children

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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The Bunny Mellon Healing Garden at Children's National is dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States, in honor of their longstanding support for the nation's children and the mission of Children's National. We are honored that First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mrs. Barbara Bush, the late Mrs. Nancy Reagan, and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter agreed to serve as honorary chairs of the Healing Garden. In addition, an honorary advisory board included Susan Ford Bales, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Caroline Kennedy, and Lynda Johnson Robb. 

For more than 100 years, First Ladies have made special visits to our hospital, have attended fundraising events, and have demonstrated their commitment to children in many other ways. Some examples:

  • Mrs. Obama has made regular holiday visits with her daughters and the family dogs, Sunny and Bo.
  • Mrs. Laura Bush debuted the popular "Barney-cam" holiday video at the hospital and brought Barney on her annual visits.
  • Mrs. Clinton made regular visits and donated some the proceeds from her book It Take a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us to Children's National.
  • Mrs. Barbara Bush read Jan Brett's The Wild Christmas Reindeer to patients.
  • Mrs. Reagan visited Children's National all eight years that she was First Lady.
  • Mrs. Carter participated in the dedication of our current building in March 1977.

Support from the First Ladies dates back at least to the late 19th century:

  • First Lady Betty Ford visited the wards of Children's National and helped raise funds for its expansion when her husband was in Congress. Her dedication to children continued an interest she shared with her mother, who tool her as a young adult to a local children's hospital in Michigan.
  • First Ladies Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, and Lou Henry Hoover all visited the hospital.
  • First Lady Edith Roosevelt visited the hospital and gave money gifts to Children's National, along with several other charities she supported. She sent large firsts of cash to various hospitals that treated poor families, instructing physicians to give cash to people when they were being discharged.
  • First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes supported poor families in Washington, DC, and regularly sent flowers to the hospital.
  • First Lady Grace Coolidge and President Coolidge attended the Children's Hospital Ball at the Willard Hotel in every year from 1924 to 1928.

See a photo gallery of historic visits by First Ladies.


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