WASHINGTON (AP) — Melania Trump isn’t letting the coronavirus pandemic break a decadeslong tradition of first ladies visiting a Washington children’s hospital at the holidays.
She planned her fourth and final holiday visit as first lady to Children’s National on Tuesday, continuing a tradition begun more than 70 years ago by first lady Bess Truman.
The hospital tweaked the holiday program to safely accommodate the visit.
The first lady will still sit in a chair in front of a towering Christmas tree in the hospital’s atrium. But she’ll read to a small, socially distanced group of children rather than a big crowd of patients and their families, hospital staffers and singers and dancers.
Her reading of the children’s Christmas story “Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey” will be broadcast over the hospital’s closed-circuit television system so patients can tune in from their rooms.
“During each of my visits to Children’s National, I have felt the warmth that these brave children bring, seen the joy in their eyes and the smiles on their faces,” Mrs. Trump told The Associated Press in a statement. “It always reminds me that the spirit of Christmas is truly alive in each and every one of these courageous children.”
Kurt Newman, president and CEO of the hospital, said it was “particularly special” that Mrs. Trump prioritized visiting when many holiday events and traditions have been scrubbed or otherwise disrupted by a pandemic now responsible for more than 300,000 U.S. deaths.
For more than seven decades, first ladies have “brought holiday cheer to children who are hospitalized and can’t be home during this special time of the year,” Newman said.
Todd Zimmerman, who is writing a series of children’s books featuring the Christmastime adventures of Oliver the Ornament, said the stories also serve to teach children about kindness, especially in the face of bullying.
Zimmerman said he was glad Mrs. Trump’s visit would help take the children’s minds “off of what they’re going through, if only for an hour.”