Under new ownership, Wicked Wolf hosts first Toys For Tots holiday drive

Several members of the U.S. Marine Corps arrived at the Wicked Wolf Dec. 2 to pick up boxes for the Toys For Tots drive.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Christmas decorations adorn the exterior and interior of the Wicked Wolf Bronx bar and restaurant at 4029 E. Tremont. Upon entry, one is immediately wrapped in a warmth that shutters the frosty kiss of Old Man Winter, as a crowd of patrons, as diverse as the population of the Bronx, fill the 100-plus seating venue. People are chatting, drinking, singing karaoke and eating chicken wings and colossal-sized burgers.

On Friday, four members of the U.S. Marine Corps, in their crisp dress blues, were also on hand at the Wicked Wolf for a special cause — to collect donations for the Toys For Tots drive.

“We always like helping kids and our communities,” said Cpl. Steven Mejia-Diaz.

The Toys-for-Tots campaign started in California in 1947. Founded by U.S. Marine Maj. Bill Hendricks, it was his wife who birthed the idea when she wanted to donate handmade dolls to children in need and Hendricks could find no organization to accept the gifts. His wife suggested that he should start one that would – so he did.

From left, Wicked Wolf manager Bill Harris; Sgt. Jose Garcia, Sgt. Nicholas Romanoff, Cpl. Steven Mejia-Diaz, Wicked Wolf owner Jay Bernardi and Sgt. Carlos Tejeda. Photo ET Rodriguez

“This is our first year doing [the toy drive],” said Wicked Wolf owner Jay Bernardi, who along with his wife Ali bought the restaurant in August. A restaurateur, Bernardi was a regular at the Wicked Wolf and said, “I’ve been in this industry my whole life.”

So when the restaurant became available for sale, he seized the opportunity. Bernardi is a strong man who looks like he could knock the breath out of your lungs with a pat on the back, but he and his wife Ali, are warm, smiley people who seem like they would invite you into their home and feed you until you pop.

Those interested in participating can drop off donations at participating businesses or donate to Toys For Tots directly. Donations go to children whose families are unable to afford gifts during the holiday season and can also be provided in monetary form. One of the goals of the Toys For Tots campaign is “to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them into becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.”

All toy donations for NYC must reach the Brooklyn warehouse no later than Dec. 16.

Reach ET Rodriguez at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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