From Dream to Reality: The Bunny Mellon Healing Garden dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States

This week, thanks to the dedication, leadership, and generosity of many donors, Children’s National is officially opening the Bunny Mellon Healing Garden dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States.

Turning a 7,200-square-foot gravel rooftop into a beautiful outdoor garden takes teamwork and a lot of support. In the case of the Healing Garden, it all started with a patient’s wish. During a visit with Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National, Andy Florance heard about the hospital’s vision to create a Healing Garden for patients and families. More important, he heard about the inspiration for the garden – a child whose last wish was to go outside. The heroic efforts of the Children’s National 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.

After that initial visit with Dr. Newman, Andy and his wife Heather decided to take a leadership role to raise the funds needed to get the project started. In addition to their personal gift, Andy engaged employees of CoStar Group, the DC-based company he founded.

It was Heather’s idea to dedicate the garden to the First Ladies and to engage the living First Ladies in the initiative, because she knew the long tradition of First Ladies visiting Children’s National and supporting children’s health. In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mrs. Barbara Bush, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter agreed 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. To recruit and engage the First Ladies, Heather Florance led a First Ladies Advisory Group that included Debra Dunn, Anita McBride, Liz Sears Smith, and Ann Stock.

The Florances and John Walsh, the outreach coordinator for the Children’s National Heart Institute, then 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 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 passion eventually led her to an opportunity to redesign the White House Rose Garden and the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on the White House grounds.

Many other donors were inspired to make gifts to make the Healing Garden possible, including individuals, corporations, and employees.

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 on top of an existing lab, including 3,000 hours of steel welding and installation. The construction impact was expertly minimized as not to disrupt critical care and hospital scheduling.

Creating the garden from vision in 2013 to its opening in 2017 was a labor of love that will benefit children and families for years to come. We are grateful to everyone who made it possible.

Donors of $10,000 or more:


Amy and Bret Baier

CoStar Group, Inc.

DAVIS Construction, General Contractor

Roberta L. DeBiasi, MD, MS

4th of July at the Feldmans’ for a Great Cause

Heather and Andy Florance, Co-Founders of the Healing Garden

The Freed Foundation

Peggy and Jim Graeter

Schonay Barnett-Jones and Kevin Jones

Michael Klein and Joan Fabry

The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation

Leach Wallace Associates, Inc.

In Honor of Silas Lynch

Alison and Kurt Newman

Perkins+Will, Design Architect

Power Solutions

Holly Joyner and William Scherman

The Carlynn and Lawrence Silverman Family Foundation, Lisa and Bruce Harwood, Amy and Barry Dickstein

Richard Simonelli

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc.

Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Inc.

The Steuart Foundation

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