By Rachel Leber
WASHINGTON — The Children’s National Health System in Washington held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 28 for the new Bunny Mellon Healing Garden. The new garden is dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States, and was made possible by multiple generous gifts. The benefactors of the garden include Andy and Heather Florance, the employees of CoStar Group — a D.C.-based company founded by Andy Florance — and a multi-million-dollar gift from the estate of the late D.C. philanthropist and horticulturalist Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon.
The inspiration for the garden originally came from a Children’s National patient. The story is that the young patient had a last wish to go outside, and the patient’s care team was able to make the child’s wish come true. This touching moment led Children’s National staff to make a commitment to make it easier for all patients at Children’s National to have better access to the outdoors. When Andy and Heather Florance heard about the hospital’s goal, they moved quickly into action raising funds privately and through the staff of CoStar. Building upon the Florances’ commitment, the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, named for Mellon’s late father, donated proceeds from Mrs. Mellon’s estate to fund the Healing Garden.
“Standing in this Healing Garden is one of the most inspiring and humbling experiences of my life,” said Andy Florance, in a statement. “The fact that the CoStar family came together to help children experience the restorative power of the fresh air and trees is simply extraordinary. We are proud to partner with Children’s National and to have a role in bringing an oasis of hope from a mere vision to this stunning reality,” he said.
Perkins + Will in Washington, D.C., served as the architectural firm who designed the garden, with James G Davis Construction in Bethesda, Md., as the general contractor. The garden itself consists of a 7,200-square-foot gravel rooftop with significant structural modifications in the construction and transformation of the rooftop into the garden. These structural modifications included 3,000 hours of steel welding and installation to create the rooftop space above the existing lab where the garden was built.
“For years, many of us here at Children’s National have dreamed about having a beautiful outdoor space for our patients and families to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of being outside,” said Kurt Newman, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Children’s National, in a statement. “Our dream has finally come true, and our entire team is grateful to the many supporters who helped make this a reality,” said Newman.
Perkins + Will balanced the needs of the hospital with modern design for this healing garden, factoring in needs for wheelchair access and children with crutches or IV poles. The design of the healing garden also includes power outlets for patients whose care requires machines so that all patients at varying levels of health care needs can enjoy the healing garden. With health care considerations in mind, the construction team minimized disruption of critical care through careful scheduling.
“The average stay for a child hospitalized at Children’s National is six days,” said Kathy Gorman, executive vice president for patient care services and chief operating officer at Children’s National, in a statement. “Many children with serious illnesses need to stay several weeks or even months, and oftentimes, they are unable to leave the confines of the hospital. This Healing Garden makes it much easier for sick children to spend time outdoors in a safe environment. Our young patients and their families now have access to sunshine, blue sky and fresh air.”