First lady Melania Trump visited Children’s National Health System in Washington on Friday, her second visit there in as many months, to help the hospital mark the official opening of a healing garden dedicated to the first ladies of the United States.
“I was lucky to met so many very brave and amazing children,” the first lady said in brief remarks to more than 100 guests, including patients, donors and friends of the hospital. “We had so much fun touring this space and planting many seeds. I look forward to coming back when everything that we planted is in full bloom.”
The new garden, which was inspired by a child whose last wish was to go outside, is named for Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon, a longtime friend and mentor to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy who redesigned the White House Rose Garden. Trump, as well as former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter, serve as honorary chairs.
“It took so many kind and caring people focused on these very brave and amazing children, and the end result is something everyone should be proud of,” Trump said. “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. It has always been my belief that a nurturing and positive environment is vital to the health and well-being of all children.”
President John F. Kennedy asked Mellon, who passed away in 2014, to redesign the White House Rose Garden during a Cape Cod picnic.
“He wanted to start, in the greatest haste, to remake the area near his office at the west end of the White House, known as the Rose Garden, into an area both useful and attractive?” Mellon wrote for the White House Historical Association. “Would I design it for him? It was a startling request to say the least.”
“As an amateur, I questioned my ability to design a garden of such importance,” she wrote. “Paying little attention to that doubt, he bubbled with enthusiasm, with fascinating details of how he wanted a garden to appeal to the most discriminating taste, yet a garden that would hold a thousand people for a ceremony. What gardener could resist?”
Many years later, Mellon’s estate provided a $5 million gift for the 7,200-square-foot garden project at Children’s National, which is accessible to patients with wheelchairs, crutches and IV poles.
Trump’s social secretary, Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd, known as Rickie, also has a connection to the garden: Her husband is Mellon’s grandson.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Trump sat a table with young patients, helping them with a craft activity: painting flower pots.
“I remember you,” she said to a little boy in a hat. “How are you feeling? Good?”
Trump talked to the children as they worked on their crafts, coloring a floral coloring sheet with a pink marker and bonding with one girl who was celebrating a birthday.
“My birthday was this Wednesday,” Trump told the girl. The table of crafters continued to talk about birthdays, including President Donald Trump’s, which is in June.
“He’s 70,” the first lady said when asked how old her husband was.
Trump also asked the children about their favorite books and singers, and after several minutes of crafting, she thanked them for spending time with her. One young patient presented her with a picture.
“That’s so nice,” she said. “Beautiful! I love it.”