First Lady Michelle Obama, Former First Ladies Lend Support to First-Ever Healing Garden at Children’s National Health System

by LP Green, II

First Lady Michelle Obama and all five living former First Ladies announced their support for a project to transform a gravel rooftop space at Children’s National Health System into a 7,200-square-foot healing garden. Currently in development, the garden will give patients and their families a healthy outdoor space where they can enjoy art, music, and inspiring views of Washington, DC. The garden will be dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States, and Mrs. Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mrs. Barbara Bush, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter are serving as honorary chairs of the garden.

“I’ve seen firsthand the strength and bravery of the children and families at Children’s National as they take on incredible challenges,” Mrs. Obama said. “The new healing garden will give children and families a place where they can find peace and comfort, while also contributing to their health.”

Kurt D. Newman, MD, President and CEO, “Children’s National has been honored by our relationship with the First Ladies over the years, and their holiday visits have meant so much to children and their families. We are grateful that the First Lady and the former First Ladies are supporting this important project. It’s a fitting tribute to dedicate this inspiring space to them.”

Visits by the First Ladies are a longstanding tradition at Children’s National. Over the years, many First Ladies have visited children in the hospital. First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, Secretary Clinton, Mrs. Barbara Bush, Mrs. Reagan, and Mrs. Carter all have visited during the holiday season. Mrs. Obama has visited with her daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dogs, Sunny and Bo. Mrs. Laura Bush debuted the popular “Barney-Cam” holiday video at the hospital and brought Barney on her annual visits. Secretary Clinton donated some of the proceeds of her book It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us to Children’s National. Mrs. Barbara Bush read Jan Brett’s The Wild Christmas Reindeer to patients. Mrs. Reagan visited Children’s National all eight years that she was First Lady. Mrs. Carter participated in the dedication of the current building in March 1977.

The idea of creating a Healing Garden was inspired by a young patient whose last wish was to go outside — and by the heroic efforts of the Children’s National care team that made her wish come true. The garden will make it easier for sick children to safely go outdoors. The average stay for a child hospitalized at Children’s National is six days. Many children with serious illnesses need to stay several weeks or months.

Children’s National is working to raise $5.53 million for the project, and $1.71 million has already been raised with the leadership of Heather and Andy Florance and the employees of Andy’s company, CoStar Group.

Research shows that being exposed to natural elements facilitates healing and positively influences a child’s psychological, physiological, and social well-being. Dr. Newman said, “Even with the shortest stays, children greatly miss feeling the warmth of the sun, seeing the blue sky, and breathing fresh air. The healing garden will give children and their families a form of respite in a very difficult time, and will also contribute to healing.”

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