So, how come no one’s talking about Melania Trump’s first 100 days?
The first lady, still defining the role she wants to play in Washington, has found one place where she seems both happy and comfortable: Children’s National Medical Center. On Friday, her 99th day in her new job, Mrs. Trump made a surprise visit to the hospital – her second in two months – for the kind of feel-good, nonpartisan appearance that she has embraced since the inauguration.
Mrs. Trump came to town for the grand opening of the Bunny Mellon Healing Garden, an outdoor space for young hospital patients and dedicated – appropriately enough – to America’s first ladies.
“It took so many kind and caring people focused on these very brave and amazing children,” she told the audience of donors, doctors and a few patients. “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.”
Then the first lady cut the rooftop ribbon with hospital president Kurt Newman and other dignitaries. The ceremonial portion of the day over, she turned to the part of the visit that she clearly enjoyed: the kids.
Although she’s still a newcomer at giving speeches, the first lady was a natural – warm, playful, inquisitive – at interacting with the patients. A young boy who presented a painting got a huge hug, she happily exchanged markers for a coloring session, and she knelt down in front of a young patient battling leukemia, murmuring words of encouragement.
The garden was inspired by a terminally ill young patient who asked her caregivers to go outdoors one more time before she died in 2013. That story became a campaign, and a 7,200-square-foot gravel rooftop was transformed into a place that kids, parents and caregivers can use. For many patients, it’s the only outdoor space they see in months.
Three years ago, all the living first ladies agreed to serve as honorary chairs for the $7 million project. The garden is named after Mellon, the late philanthropist and gardening aficionado who helped Jackie Kennedy design the White House Rose Garden. It was a perfect blend of cause and donor; Mellon’s family and her Gerard B. Lambert Foundation donated $5 million.
Mellon, who died in 2014, would have been very proud of this garden, said Mellon’s grandson, Thomas Lloyd. “She was very particular about things, and she would have been very impressed. That’s a compliment.”
He then shared the story of Mellon’s daughter Eliza, who was severely injured in a car accident and spent her last decade living at Mellon’s Virginia estate. While his grandmother tried every medical treatment possible to help her, their best moments were sitting outside, together, in her garden.
If the healing garden, said Lloyd, gives families just “five or 10 minutes to clear their head and give them some peace,” then it will achieve its purpose.