At a special "Garden Party" on March 14, Children's National honored Heather and Andy Florance, the employees and executives of the CoStar Group, the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, and other donors for their generous support of the Bunny Mellon Healing Garden Dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States. At the event, all of the donors and supporters signed a steel beam that will be used to support the center of the garden.
"For several years, many of us at Children’s National have dreamed of building a garden to give children and families a way to safely enjoy the outdoors." said Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children's National. "We believe this garden will not only give children and families a space for respite and rejuvenation, but also contribute to the healing process. Everyone here at the hospital – our doctors, nurses, social workers, child life specialists, and others – knew this was a good idea and an important service for our families. We also knew it would be possible only with the support of many generous donors and supporters."
Dr. Newman thanked Heather and Andy Florance, who agreed to chair a campaign to raise the needed funds. In addition to their personal support, Andy enlisted the support of board members, executives, and employees of CoStar Group, the company he founded. Heather brought the idea to engage the First Ladies, and under her leadership, 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 all signed on to serve as honorary chairs of the garden. Dr. Newman specifically noted the support of Mrs. Reagan, who passed away the week before the event.
"Our thoughts are with the Reagan family, as we remember Mrs. Reagan's many contributions to our country and her devotion to children," Dr. Newman said. "When she was approached about serving as an honorary chair for the Healing Garden back in 2014, she agreed enthusiastically. We feel a special bond with Mrs. Reagan, as she visited our hospital during the holidays in every one of the eight years President Reagan was in office. We are proud to honor her legacy by having her permanently recognized as an honorary chair of the Healing Garden."
After the Florances helped raise the initial funding, they and John Walsh, outreach coordinator at Children's National, brought the project to the attention of the family of the late Rachel "Bunny" Lambert Mellon. Her family and the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation agreed -- the Healing Garden was an ideal way to honor Mrs. Mellon, who died at age 103 in March 2014. Mrs. Mellon had a lifelong interest in gardening, and she was close with several First Ladies. She helped redesign the Rose Garden and East Garden, which was named the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. The foundation made a gift of $5 million from Mrs. Mellon's estate to complete the needed fundraising for the project.
Kathleen Gorman, executive vice president and chief operating officer of patient care services -- and a nurse -- talked about how the Healing Garden will benefit children and families. "Because we’re a children’s hospital, we think about healing in the broadest sense of the word," she said. "When a child comes to the hospital, they don’t stop being a kid. That’s why we have arts and music programs, books and toys, and activities to take their minds off the challenges they’re facing. When I think about this project, I am moved by the thought of children being able to take a moment away from the rigors of treatment and feel the warmth of sunshine and enjoy the clear, blue sky, with their families by their side. Through your support, you are giving children and families a gift. A gift of healing, comfort, and peace at a time they need it the most."
Andy Florance explained that he first heard about the idea for the Healing Garden when his company and Children’s National both received an award from the DC Mayor’s Office for sustainability. His own company, CoStar Group, had created a garden on a rooftop, and when he heard the plan for the hospital, he said, “I couldn’t think of a more important or more deserving project to help children in all sorts of situations heal and get better.” He thanked the many CoStar employees who had personally supported the campaign, the Lloyd family, and the team that helped enlist the support of the First Ladies – Debra Dunn, Anita McBride, Liz Smith, and Ann Stock.
Thomas Lloyd, speaking for Mrs. Mellon's family and the Lambert Foundation, said the garden is an appropriate tribute to his grandmother. “Many of you know of my grandmother’s achievement in the horticultural world," he said. "She loved her gardens, and the beauty and the solace it provided her. She spent hours of time on her ladder, with her pruning shears, carefully shaping each tree limb to grow into something so special. It gave her such joy and energy. It gave her time to reflect and relax. When I was approached about this project, it made perfect sense -- the creation of a garden space to help mothers and fathers benefit and improve the quality of time with their child. There is no doubt my grandmother held a steadfast belief about the healing powers that a garden provides, and my family is truly humbled to be part of such an amazing project.”