WASHINGTON — Children receiving treatment at Children’s National Health System are now able to safely enjoy fresh air and inspiring views of the nation’s capital in the hospital’s Bunny Mellon Healing Garden dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States. The garden officially opened today with a special program and ribbon-cutting ceremony with donors and special guests, including Melania Trump, First Lady of the United States.
“I want to thank everyone involved in this project,” Mrs. Trump said. “It took so many kind and caring people focused on these very brave and amazing children, and the end result is something everyone should be proud of. I’m so grateful that patients and their families will be able to go through the healing process outside in this wonderful space.”
Kurt Newman, M.D., president and CEO of Children’s National, said, “For years, many of us here at Children’s National have dreamed about having a beautiful outdoor space for our patients and families to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of being outside. Our dream has finally come true, and our entire team is grateful to the many supporters who helped make this a reality.”
The inspiration for the garden was a patient at Children’s National whose last wish was to go outside. The heroic efforts of the care team made that wish come true, and the staff made a commitment to make it easier for all children to have access to the outdoors. Perkins + Will designed the garden, carefully balancing the modern design with the unique needs and health considerations for patients, including accessibility for children using equipment like wheelchairs, crutches, and IV poles and power outlets for patients whose care requires machines.
DAVIS Construction executed the design, which required significant structural modifications, including 3,000 hours of steel welding and installation, to create the space on top of an existing lab. The construction impact was expertly minimized as not to disrupt critical care and hospital scheduling.
The average stay for a child hospitalized at Children’s National is six days, said Kathy Gorman, executive vice president for patient care services and chief operating officer at Children’s National. But “many children with serious illnesses need to stay several weeks or even months, and oftentimes, they are unable to leave the confines of the hospital. This Healing Garden makes it much easier for sick children to spend time outdoors in a safe environment. Our young patients and their families now have access to sunshine, blue sky, and fresh air.”
The process to turn a 7,200-square-foot gravel rooftop into a garden began when Andy and Heather Florance learned about the hospital’s vision and took a lead role in raising the funds needed to get the project started. In addition to the Florances’ personal gift, Mr. Florance engaged employees of CoStar Group, the D.C.-based company he founded.
“Standing in this Healing Garden is one of the most inspiring and humbling experiences of my life,” said Mr. Florance. “The fact that the CoStar family came together to help children experience the restorative power of the fresh air and trees is simply extraordinary. We are proud to partner with Children’s National and to have a role in bringing an oasis of hope from a mere vision to this stunning reality.”
The Florances and John Walsh, the outreach coordinator for the Children’s National Heart Institute, connected Children’s National with the Lloyd family and the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, who made a $5 million gift from the estate of the late D.C. philanthropist and horticulturalist Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon. Mrs. Mellon, who passed away in March 2014 at the age of 103, was well known for her lifelong passion for horticulture and gardening. Her enthusiasm eventually led her to an opportunity to redesign the White House Rose Garden and the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on the White House grounds.
“When our family 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 children,” said Thomas Lloyd, grandson of Mrs. Mellon and a trustee of the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation. “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.”
The Healing Garden is dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States, who have a long tradition of supporting Children’s National and the children of the Washington, D.C. community. Mrs. Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mrs. Barbara Bush, the late Mrs. Nancy Reagan, and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter agreed in 2014 to serve as honorary chairs of the garden. In addition, Susan Ford Bales, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Lynda Johnson Robb, and Caroline Kennedy served on the Honorary Advisory Board for the Healing Garden.