WASHINGTON, D.C. — First lady Michelle Obama and all five living former first ladies recently 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. Now in development, the garden will give patients and their families a healthy outdoor space to enjoy art, music and inspiring views of Washington, D.C. The garden will be dedicated to the first ladies of the United States, and Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan and Rosalynn Carter are serving as honorary chairs of the garden.
Kurt D. Newman, M.D., president and CEO, said, “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.”
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 Florance’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.”