First Lady Joins Donors and Families to Open Bunny Mellon Healing Garden

The Bunny Mellon Healing Garden dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States at Children’s National from Children's Hospital Foundation on Vimeo. See photos from the grand opening and a time-lapse video of the construction of the garden.

“For years, many of us here at Children’s National have dreamed about having a beautiful outdoor space for our patients and families,” said Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National, at the official Grand Opening of the Bunny Mellon Healing Garden dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States on April 28. “Now, thanks to the hard work of many individuals and the extremely generous support of our donors, our patients and their families can enjoy fresh air and feel the sun shine on their faces."

At the event, Mike Williams, chairman of the board at Children's National, greeted and thanked special guest Melania Trump, First Lady of the United States. "Thank you, Mrs. Trump, for joining us for this special celebration today," he said. "We were so pleased you were able to visit us last month to see the garden and meet some of our patients. We appreciate your support for our garden, and we look forward to continuing to work together to promote comfort and healing for all children." First Lady Michelle Obama visited the garden soon after construction was complete, and more recently Mrs. Laura Bush visited and read to children in the garden.

"I want to thank everyone involved in this project," Mrs. Trump said. "It took so many kind and caring people focused on these brave and amazing children, and the end result is something that 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."

Kathy Gorman, chief operating officer and executive vice president for patient care services, told attendees that the average stay for a child admitted to Children's National is six days, but many with serious illnesses need to stay several weeks or even months. "This Healing Garden makes it much easier for sick children spend time outdoors in a safe environment. Our young patients and their families will now have access to sunshine, blue sky, and fresh air. Numerous studies indicate that being outside and in nature can improve healing and reduce pain. Being around nature can also help reduce emotional and psychological distress. We have begun to witness, firsthand, how the garden is already contributing to the healing process of our children."

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 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 a personal gift, Andy engaged employees of CoStar Group, the D.C.-based company he founded. 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.

Thomas Lloyd, grandson of Mrs. Mellon and a trustee of the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, said, "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. 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 community. Mrs. 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 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. Before the Grand Opening, Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, and Mrs. Trump had visited with patients in the garden.

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