There's good, there's great, and there's best. Best Bar None is a voluntary program for nightlife venues, designed to keep staff and patrons safe while recognizing excellence in the industry. Working with other establishments, government bodies, and law enforcement, a Best Bar None accredited establishment has taken steps to make sure their business is held to the highest levels of safety and quality. Through rigorous assessment, accreditation and awards, Best Bar None helps make sure your favourite nightlife venues have you covered.

The Boston Pizza Paper Heart campaign started in Edmonton?

By now, many people have heard of the Boston Pizza Heart-Shaped Pizza campaign - or enjoyed one of the uniquely shaped dinner items for charity. And a huge part of that annual campaign involves donating money and signing or decorating a red paper heart at your local BP's restaurant.

The promotion, which launched corporately in 1993, has helped raise more than $24 million for the Boston Pizza Foundation future Prospects which helps support other charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kids Help Phone, JDRF, Live Different and The Rick Hansen Foundation through sales of the paper hearts and unique pizzas.

But this huge corporate fundraiser has a very homegrown, staff-led "origin story", which started here in Edmonton - and a Best Bar None connection.

In September of 1991, Boston Pizza franchise owners David and Lisa MacPherson's second son Kyle was born with a troubling heart defect, called a "hyperplastic right heart". Basically, according to his brother Neil, "he was born with half a heart."

In order to show support and solidarity for the restaurant owners, staff at the NAIT Boston Pizza located in Edmonton decided to take action. The following weeks leading up to Valentine's day 1992 the team - unbeknownst to the owners - crafted handmade paper hearts out of construction paper, which were sold to guests for $1 with the proceeds going to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In fact, 1003 handmade hearts were sold in that first year.

Word spread to BP head office about this charitable staff initiative and the sale of paper hearts has become a huge component of the annual Valentine's Day Heart-Shaped Pizza campaign the next year.

Today, Kyle (who is living a full life) and his two brothers Ewen and Neil are franchise owners of the North Central Boston Pizza (9703 137 Avenue), which has proudly earned Best Bar None-accredited for six years straight.

"It's very humbling for our family to see how a generous and spontaneous act of support from our restaurant staff has turned into a national fundraising campaign that has seen literally millions of dollars funneled to kids' charities," said a proud Lisa MacPherson.

Neil MacPherson adds, "This national fundraiser had a simple and humble origin story. It wouldn't have happened without some great restaurant staff - and the guests who donated money. We look forward every year to being involved in this great promotion. It is just one more way to be a positive member of the community."

Kyle MacPherson at the 2015 Best Bar None Awards event, receiving the restaurant and bar's accreditation plaque from Mary Ann Debrinski of the City of Edmonton.

February 21, 2017