First Lady Melania Trump spent Valentine’s Day with children battling rare and life-threatening diseases at The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
This is Trump’s second straight year visiting The Children’s Inn. The First Lady helped children decorate candy boxes, make Valentine’s Day snow globes and exchange cards.
“Our children, families and staff are so honored that the First Lady is choosing to celebrate Valentine’s Day with us at The Children’s Inn once again,” The Children’s Inn CEO Jennie Lucca said in a statement. “Her visit makes our children feel so very special and helps raise awareness of the need for ongoing medical research at the NIH to help the seriously ill children we serve today and benefit generations to come.”
The First Lady was greeted by Amber, 9, of San Jose, California, and learned about her condition, giant axonal neuropathy. The disease is considered the childhood form of ALS, and there’s currently no treatment or cure.
Trump then met Silver Spring residents 9-year-old Annie Ribas and her sister Caitlyn, 11. Annie was successfully treated at the NIH for a tumor on her pituitary gland causing drastic weight gain. The girls wrote out their “Favorites Things” on heart-shaped notes with Trump and put them on a poster board next to a map of the world denoting where every patient resided.
“It was cool,” Annie said. “She was really tall. She remembered me from last year.”
On a light pink heart placed in the middle of the board, Trump wrote, “My favorite city is Washington,” adorned with a tidy signature.
Kristine Ribas, Annie and Caitlyn’s mother, said Trump’s visit was a great opportunity to highlight The Children’s Inn and the work done at the NIH campus. Ribas serves on The Children’s Inn board of directors, taking the position as a way to give back to the hospital after curing Annie.
“To have that kind of publicity, I think it’s really great,” Kristine said. “It’s just a positive message that we’re excited to be a part of.”
As she departed, Trump received flowers and a bracelet from Amani, 13, of Mombasa, Kenya, as a show of thanks on behalf of the patients. Amani is being treated for sickle cell disease at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the third-largest facility on the NIH campus.
The Children’s Inn was established in 1990 to support children and families going through treatment at the various NIH facilities. Patients across the country and the world take part in clinical trials at the institutes, and the Children’s Inn houses more than 1,700 children and families each year at no cost.
A sagging roof at the main building in August 2018 forced a third of residents move into nearby apartments, but repairs are expected to be completed in March.