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Local restaurant finds pizza is the way to improve children's health

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Pizza may not be the traditional Valentine, but one pizzeria is hoping something unconventional can earn lots of donations for the Children's Miracle Network.

From now until Feb. 17, all Boston's The Gourmet Pizza locations will be selling paper hearts for $1. Patrons can write special Valentine's messages on the hearts. Heart shaped pizzas will also be sold at all Boston's locations from Feb. 14, through Feb. 17. One dollar from each heart-shaped pizza purchase will be donated to the Children's Miracle Network.

Money raised from the Boston's location at 2180 Mt. Zion Pkwy., in Morrow, will go to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, one of 170 hospitals affiliated with the Children's Miracle Network.

"No other pizza place around here serves heart-shaped pizzas, so this is a unique opportunity to get the community excited about this fundraising effort," said Sam Patel, the owner of the Boston's location in Morrow. "It's all about awareness of the Children's Miracle Network. Once people find out what we're doing, they're pretty willing to help out."

The Valentine's fundraiser has been held every year since 1999. The idea began with Boston's pizza locations in Canada selling the paper hearts, and pizza hearts, to customers. The fundraiser eventually spread to U.S. locations as well.

The fundraiser has been used to help out a variety of charities over the years, but the alliance with the Children's Miracle Network began last year, said Rupa Patel, a spokesperson for Boston's corporate office.

The cost of the heart-shaped pizzas range from $6.99, to $16.49, depending on which toppings and size (individual, small or medium) is ordered.

To date, the fundraising effort has raised more than $500,000 for charities the Children's Miracle Network.

Each paper heart, which is purchased, will be displayed in the restaurant until the fundraiser ends.

The pizzas are made the same way other pizzas are made, except a heart-shaped dough cutter is used to give the food it's unusual shape.

Last year, 16,000 paper hearts, and 21,000 heart-shaped pizzas were sold at more than 300 Boston's locations across the U.S. and Canada.

Quintin Harris, the kitchen manager at the Boston's in Morrow, said roughly 2,000 pizzas were made locally last year. The Morrow location is the only one in Georgia, according to the company's web site.

"A lot of the pizzas we sold were on Valentine's Day itself," Harris said. "I guess a lot of people saw it as something different, and romantic, to get."

Children's Miracle Network is a non-profit organization with affiliates across North America. The organization's goal is to raise money, through fundraisers such as Boston's Valentine's event, for hospitals which emphasizes children's health care.

The Salt Lake City-based organization was founded in 1983, and currently helps an average of 17 million children every year.

More than $3.2 billion dollars has been raised by the Children's Miracle Network over the last 25 years. An additional $200 million is raised for the network through outside organizations, such as Boston's, said April Bitton, a spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network.

"The strength of Children's Miracle Network is that every dollar which is raised in a community, stays in the community," Bitton said.

In a statement released by a Boston's spokesperson, Marie Osmond, one of the network's co-founders, expressed her gratitude to the restaurant chain for its support.

"Children's Miracle Network and our member hospitals are proud to be partnering with Boston's The Gourmet Pizza for such a great event," Osmond said. "We are grateful to the restaurants and customers that made last year's fundraiser such a success and demonstrated that there's always a way to help those in need. We are excited to make this year's event our greatest yet!"

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On the net:

Boston's The Gourmet Pizza: http://www.bostonsgourmet.com/

Children's Miracle Network: http://www.childrensmiraclenetwork.org/