Off in the distance, young patients can see the Washington Monument from the hospital’s new rooftop “healing” garden, dedicated Friday by first lady Melania Trump as a place children and their families can breathe fresh air, “relax and enjoy in peace.”
Features of the Bunny Mellon Healing Garden at Children’s National Medical Center also include doors that are wide enough to wheel in hospital beds, power outlets for patients who use machines that run on electricity and fake grass for patients with allergies.
Trump, who has been living in New York since she became the first lady, has been a low-key FLOTUS so far, but she’s met several times with children in hospitals or care centers in appearances sometimes unannounced and largely uncovered by the national press.
In March, she paid a surprise visit to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, reading to children in the pediatrics unit playroom. On April 14, she paid an unannounced visit to HomeSafe, a home for abused teen girls, in Lake Worth, Fla, according to the Palm Beach Post. But there were no photos until she tweeted pictures of the encounters.
Earlier, in March, Trump quietly toured Children’s National and visited the garden, helping the children plant morning glories, said to be a symbol of love and renewal.
“We had so much fun,” she said. “I look forward to coming back when everything that we planted is in full bloom.”
In her short speech Friday, Trump, dressed in a mint-green cardigan over a white eyelet dress by Giambattista Valli, thanked everyone who donated their services to help build the garden, declaring that, “The end result is something everyone should be proud of.”
Trump is a believer in the healing power of gardens. While escorting the wife of the Japanese prime minister on a tour of a Japanese garden in Florida in February, she declared herself a “caretaker and nurturer,” and promised to preserve the First Lady’s White House Kitchen Garden.
On Friday, she said children being treated in hospitals especially need access to gardens.
“This garden will be a quiet space for children to benefit from nature’s most important elements: fresh air and beautiful views, to relax and enjoy in peace,” she said. “It has always been my belief that a nurturing and positive environment is vital to the health and well-being of all children.”
The garden is named for Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a friend of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Mellon, a wealthy philanthropist and expert on garden design who died in 2014 at 103, designed the Rose Garden and other gardens at the White House during the Kennedy administration. Trump’s social secretary, Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd, is married to Mellon’s grandson.
The inspiration for the children’s hospital garden came from a patient whose last wish was to go outside, the hospital said.
The garden is dedicated to America’s first ladies because of their longstanding support for the facility, its staff and patients. First ladies dating to Bess Truman have visited the hospital at Christmastime, and some have supported Children’s National in other ways, too.
Hillary Clinton donated proceeds of her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, to the hospital, and Nancy Reagan invited patients to the White House to launch a toy donation program, according to hospital history.
Contributing: Maria Puente, USA TODAY
–The Associated Press, Darlene Superville