Brothers carry on Drifters toy drive tradition

Firefighters from Station 107 help to load the bicycles and toys collected by Drifters Cocktails in Canyon Country. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

Firefighters exhausted from efforts battling a brutal Santa Ana Fire Season made the extra effort Tuesday to ensure less fortunate kids get a bike for Christmas.

Every year, the staff and management at the Drifters Cocktails Lounge kick off the last month of the year encouraging patrons and the public at large to donate a Christmas gift for their annual toy drive.

This year, however, the sentiment of giving and sharing resonates deeper at the tavern on Soledad Canyon Road, since the man who started the whole thing died recently, and wasn’t able to see the outpouring of love demonstrated by the gift-givers for this Christmas.

Dennis Marazzito Sr., who started the toy drive tradition nine years ago when he opened the Drifter’s doors to the public, died suddenly Nov. 13.  His funeral on Nov. 18 at the Heart of the Canyons Church took place just two weeks before the 2017 toy drive.

This season, his brother, Joe Marazzito, and Dennis’ son, Dennis Marazzito Jr., picked up the mantle and began working together, to keep the tradition their brother started alive.

The pair, moved by the public’s response to their brother’s toy drive tradition, took out a newspaper ad that reads: “The Drifters Cocktail Lounge would like to thank everyone for the donations of gifts and money for the Marazzito Kids Toy Drive.”

For Barb (Marazzito) Ward, watching her brothers carry on the toy drive tradition comes as no surprise.

“Our mom and dad brought us up to be that way,” she told The Signal on Tuesday. “We are a very close Italian family. That’s what we do.”

Since the beginning of this month, the staff at Drifters have been encouraging everyone inside and outside the business to donate a gift.

In a Facebook post, they wrote: “Share this event with your friends.  It’s the season of giving and we ask you to help those that are less fortunate this holiday season.

“Please, donate a brand new, unwrapped $10 toy and receive a Free Drink courtesy of Drifters Cocktails and the late Dennis Marazzito Sr.”

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Firefighters from Fire Station No. 107 went across the street in response to their annual toy drive dispatch: pick up toys for needy kids.

“People know we’re here,” Fire Captain John Rossi of Fire Station No. 107 told The Signal Tuesday.

“We’re one of the oldest stations out here,” he said, “so we’re really looking forward to getting to start to distribute these toys and give these bikes to the less fortunate.”

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