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Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive launches with action heroes doing spectacular stunts

By Charles Innis

WILLIAMSBURG — The North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce partnered with STREB on Sunday, Dec. 8, to launch the eighth annual Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive, celebrating with an action-packed stunt performance at the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) in Williamsburg.

Clad in blue and red, skin-tight spandex, eight gymnasts sprung, twirled, corkscrewed and nosedived off trampolines, suspended beams and colossal metal structures, executing aerial stunts to an array of popular songs.

The performance drew gasps and cheers from small children and parents, who recorded and snapped photos of the display of bravura.

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“The event was successful not just because we raised money and collected toys for the Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive, but also because it brought people, families, together for a truly enjoyable experience during this, the holiday season,” said Paul Samulski, president of the North Brooklyn Chamber, in an email.

The North Brooklyn Chamber has a history with STREB that dates back several years, and the performance artist and STREB founder, Elizabeth Streb, has always supported the chamber’s work, Samulski said.

STREB gymnasts celebrated at the end of the performance.

The day’s event started off with a group of gymnasts, known as “action heroes” at STREB, who balanced on a 20-foot-tall semicircle structure, tipping back and forth, and belly-flopping onto landing mats.

One stunt involved two action heroes, tethered together by rope, who dashed around, collided with and dragged each other across the space.

Another stunt involved the action heroes dodging a rotating metal beam while lying supine on the mat, narrowly avoiding concussions.

The action heroes saved the most exhilarating stunt for last. All eight of the gymnasts synchronized as they launched themselves off a trampoline, flipping and flying in the air like birds.

All the while, the action heroes smiled, joked and kept the energy high, making it a toy drive audience members may never forget.

The Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive began eight years ago in response to Hurricane Sandy. The drive collects toys and raises money to distribute gifts for local children in need.

The toy drive has collected over 28,000 toys since its inception.

The first stunt involved a giant balancing structure.

“Whatever we can get via toy or monetary donations, thanks to the generosity of the public, is appreciated and put to good use,” Samulski said.

Three years ago, the North Brooklyn Chamber teamed up with the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Brooklyn North to combine efforts to amass as many toys as possible for the drive.

This year, around Christmas day, a caravan of police cars and trucks will travel from precinct to precinct in a makeshift “sleigh ride,” the vehicles crammed with wrapped gifts, to deliver the toys to local kids.

Officers will dress up as superheroes for the occasion, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus, with a personal DJ on board, plan to make a special appearance.

As for next year’s toy drive event, Samulski said the North Brooklyn Chamber plans to partner with STREB again for an even bigger performance.

If you want to participate in the drive, drop off a new, unwrapped toy at one of the Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive collection boxes or make a donation through North Brooklyn Chamber’s not-for-profit partner, NYC Together. Go to NYCtogether.org to donate money and include a note that the contribution is for the BBHTD.

Collection boxes are located at the following addresses.

Dandelion Wine — 153 Franklin St. in Greenpoint

The Office of Assemblymember Joe Lentol — 619 Lorimer St. in Greenpoint

Dandy Wine & Spirits — 37 South Fourth St. in Williamsburg

Streb SLAM — 51 North First in Williamsburg

Brooklyn Roasting Company — 25 Jay St. in DUMBO

Front Street Pizza — 80 Front St. in DUMBO

Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital — 365 Seventh Ave. in Park Slope

Boxes are also located at the following TwoTrees residential and business locations.

1 South First. St. in Williamsburg

325 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg

45 Main St. in DUMBO

60 Water St. in DUMBO

300 Ashland Place in Clinton Hill

125 Court St. in Brooklyn Heights

110 Livingston St. in Downtown Brooklyn

555 West 53rd St. in Manhattan

550 West 54th St. in Manhattan

You can also drop toys off at the New York Waterway ferry terminals in Midtown Manhattan and Weehawken, NJ.

Toy collection day for this year’s drive is Thursday, Dec. 19.

There also will be two more performances of STREB’s “Action heroes : Sooner, Higher, Faster, Harder!” on Dec. 14, at 5 p.m., and Dec. 15, at 3 p.m.

A toy drive collection box.

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