BETHESDA, Md. (Sept. 17, 2019) – The staff, board members, trustees, children and families of The Children’s Inn at NIH are deeply saddened by the death of Cokie Roberts, a beloved Children’s Inn board member and dedicated supporter for nearly three decades.
Roberts joined The Children’s Inn board of directors in 1992, two years after the hospitality house opened its doors across from the NIH Clinical Center to provide free lodging and support to seriously ill children whose best hope for a treatment is a clinical trial at NIH.
Made possible in large part by the assistance of a bipartisan group of Congressional spouses, Roberts not only bonded with The Inn’s mission and families but also its political supporters from both parties, especially Children’s Inn trustee Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and her late husband and former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.); Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) and her husband, Children’s Inn trustee Anthony “Tony” Morella; Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) wife, Abby, also a Children’s Inn trustee, and many, many others, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.).
Over her 30 years of dedicated support of The Children’s Inn at NIH, Roberts has held multiple roles on the board and helped usher in the 2004 expansion that nearly doubled The Inn’s capacity to house and serve families. In 2018, the board of directors, with Roberts serving as secretary, helped devise a multi-year strategic plan to carry The Children’s Inn into the future. Roberts continued to serve as board secretary until her recent death.
However, Roberts’ support went beyond helping steer the organization from the comfort of air-conditioned board meetings. When The Inn added a large, new playground in 2012, Roberts rolled up her sleeves, grabbed a shovel and joined other volunteers in digging up dirt to install new playground equipment. She also diligently attended every Inn event she could over the years and has hosted and acted as emcee for The Children’s Inn Congressional Gala and reception over the years. Her support not only included personal financial contributions to The Inn but also resulted in the raising of millions of dollars that helped provide free lodging and a wide variety of recreational, educational and therapeutic supportive services to more than 15,000 NIH pediatric and young adults patients as well as their families over the years.
“The news of the passing of our friend and supporter Cokie Roberts leaves me and all of us at The Children’s Inn who have had the fortune of knowing her deeply saddened,” says Jennie Lucca, CEO of The Children’s Inn. “Cokie has helped lead The Inn through the decades, guided by her passion for both helping seriously ill children and advancing the clinical research at the NIH to bring about new treatments and cures that will benefit generations to come. While Cokie is known to most as a trailblazing journalist and best-selling author, she also was a great humanitarian who took on philanthropic projects as she would everything else: intrepidly and whole-heartedly. One thing that stands out about Cokie is how much she cared about making sure The Children’s Inn staff felt supported for all they do for our families. Cokie would personally bring in cookies and drop off treats for our staff any chance she got as a gesture of her appreciation. Our hearts go out to her husband, Steven, their children, Rebecca and Lee, and their six grandchildren, and all who are mourning the loss of this extraordinary human being.”
“Cokie Roberts was a woman who showed up no matter the circumstances,” says Beth Maloney, chair of the Children’s Inn board of directors and president of Palladian Partners. “Full of wit, wisdom and compassion, she was a gift to The Inn and our world. Her voice will be missed dearly.”
Roberts served on The Children’s Inn board alongside NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins’ wife, Diane Baker, and the three became friends. Collins released a statement Tuesday about her passing.
Located on the NIH campus, The Children’s Inn is a nonprofit hospitality house that provides free lodging and supportive services to families of children with rare and serious illnesses whose best hope for a treatment or cure is a clinical trial at the NIH.
Every year, The Children’s Inn houses more than 1,700 children and their families from across the United States and the world to help reduce the burden of illness on families, make childhood possible despite illness and advance medical breakthroughs at the NIH that benefit children today and generations to come. For more information about The Children’s Inn, visit childrensinn.org.