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FLORIST TO THE FANS OF BARBARO

This article was featured in the Daily Local News!

Barbaro fans' 'official florist' reflects on champions dealth

KENNETT SQUARE - After the dealth of racehorse Barbaro, Kennett Florist owner, Alie Bersler had to call people who ordered flowers for the stallion and ask them if they wanted a reimbursement.

"Most of them donated them to the research horses, others had their credit cards reimbursed so that they could give money to the Laminitis Fund. I have to start getting that out there to everyone."

When she refers to "everyone" she means the Barbaro Maniacs, the fans of the Kentuck Derby-winning horse who have become Bersler's extended family over the last few months.

Barbaro was enthanized on Jan. 29th after an eight-month battle to recover from lef injuries suffered in the Preakness.

"It all started with customer service," Berstler said. "One person would call and we would be friendly and nice, take the time to talk to them, and they would tell one friend, and that friend would tell another."

Soon the Maniacs came to rely on Berstler so much that they came together and bought a banner for the shop reading "Official Florist of Fans of Barbaro."

"That's how we run our business," Berstler said of the attention each customer gets. "Yes, it is time-consuming, but these are good people." In her office, above the shop, Berstler has binder upon heavy binder of emails, newspaper clippings, and even Christmas cards the Maniacs and others have sent, thanking her for her help. One card thanks Berstler and staff for "being the link between us and Barbaro."

"Everyone is dealing with emotions," Berstler said. "Everyone calls crying, which gets us crying."

"I've been so exhausted," Kennett Florist employee Rachel Rockoff said after coming in on her day offto help out with the extra work. "It's still raw. He was just so beautiful."

"I had the great honor of meeting Barbaro," Berstler said. "When you looked into his eyes, it changed you."

And it has changed the town of Kennett Square, too. "Throughout this we've tried to use local businesses," Berstler said. "Kennett Pizza for the pizza lunches at New Bolton, Kennett Truffles for the chocolate - anything we could bring out of the community, we did."

The gift baskets that clutter every inch of counter space in the shop are proof of that. "I never thought being a florist in Kennett Square would open so many doors." Doors across the country are literally opened to Berstler and her employees, who work around the clock on gift baskets and flowers for the staff at New Bolton, Dr. Dean Richardson, and Barbaro's owners, the Jacksons.

Invitations to houses across the nation are a constant to Berstler from the Maniacs. Some of the fans even made trips out to New Bolton Center and took the time to stop by the shop to say "hello" and thank Berstler and her staff. Berstler said the Maniacs are not lonely crazed housewives with nothing better to do -- contrary to what some newspapers have written, Berstler said.

Some are men, some are CEOs of companies, golf pros, bank executives, and more. "They just came together overa great animal," she said.

In fact, after the news broke that Barbaro had been euthanized, Berstler made sure that the staff at New Bolton and her Maniac friends knew that their friendships were not over. "Our friendships will go on," Berstler said. "It's not over."

"Mrs. Jackson has asked us to continue our work for the anti-slaughter bill and to contribute to the Laminitis Fund," Berstler said, "so that's what we're going to do.

"We have been at new Bolton every day except for Christmas and New Year's," Berstler said. And she will continue to go.

She even made a special trip Christmas Eve, when her shop is usually closed, "to make sure Barbaro and all the other horses had enough treats to last the holiday."

The other horses Berstler mentioned are the research and donor horses, which the Maniacs have also taken under their wing with gifts and messages of love. Bersler said that Libby, the vet who takes care of the research horses, tears up every time a basket is delivered to those horses. Care and treats to New Bolton's reasearch horses are just another part of the Barbaro effect that the Kennett Florist has helped create.

He (Barbaro) may have run for the roses, but he ran in our hearts," Berstler said.