Sisters honored by President

Chronicle Staff

Marni ’09 and Berni ’10 Barta were among the first to greet President George W. Bush Wednesday as he alighted from Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport. 

“Hello girls, how are you?” he said to the girls who were standing with California Governor Arnold Schwarzzeneger and a group of about 50 people. 

The Barta sisters were chosen to greet President Bush as recipients of the “President’s Volunteer Service Award” in recognition of their organization, Kid Flicks, which donates “movie libraries” to children’s hospitals and pediatric centers across the country. The sisters have donated 28,600 movies to 286 hospitals in all 50 states since they founded the organization with their elder sisters, Lexi Barta ’03 and Romi Barta’06.

The sisters each received a pin engraved with the words “The President’s call to service,” and posed for a photo with the President under the seal. After the Bush’s departure they were taken on a private tour of Air Force One by Pilot Mark Tillman, which included a visit to the Presidential quarters, the conference room, the hospital operating rooms, the press rooms, and the cockpit.

“It was unbelievable,” said Berni, “It was like a house inside a plane.”

The Bartas were contacted to greet the President last spring, but could not accept the offer because they were out of town. Last Friday Marni received a surprise call from a White House representative while she was at lunch with friends celebrating the end of midterms.

“They first contacted us without us ever having contacted them,” she said. “At first you think it’s a joke to be standing there as a 17-year old on the phone with the White House.”

The family was asked to keep the honor confidential until Monday, when news of President Bush’s visit to Los Angeles would be released to the press. After its release they were contacted by KSWB radio station, Telemundo, a Spanish-speaking television station and later by the Los Angeles Times.