Goodbye whiffle ball at the Little K. Hello softball on the big field at Kauffman Stadium.
Big Slick Celebrity Weekend in June is upping its game big time, actor and comedian Rob Riggle said Thursday.
He said it’s all part of an effort to make the charity event — which he helped start — better every year, involving more Kansas Citians and raising more money for Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“We want it to be the marquee event in Kansas City,” he said.
Riggle spoke at the Middle of the Map Fest Forum, held in The Kansas City Star Press Pavilion in the Crossroads district. His question-and-answer presentation was titled “Crawl, Walk, Run: The Big Slick Formula for Growth and Innovation.”
Riggle learned the “crawl, walk, run” strategy in the U.S. Marines Corps, he said, starting slowly but always building.
“You just keep ramping up,” he said. “It’s a heightening process.”
In terms of fundraising, the first year’s goal wasn’t huge, $50,000, and the event exceeded expectations at more than $100,000. Last year, Big Slick hit $1 million, he said.
Riggle acknowledged that the celebrity status of the hosts, all with Kansas City ties, has something to do with the success. (See photos from last year’s event).
But he also lauded Kansas Citians who buy tickets, corporate sponsors and the behind-the-scenes work of the celebrity hosts’ family members and friends who live in the Kansas City area.
“It’s still family,” said Riggle, who graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School and the University of Kansas. “And it’s their volunteer time and effort that makes it all possible. And our friends.”
The hosts — Riggle, Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner — invite other celebrities to join them in the fundraiser, now in its sixth year. The June 19-20 event includes a bowling party and an auction.
Whom they’ll “get” as celebrity guests is often a mystery, even to them, depending on the busy schedules of their famous friends. Riggle said he has seven committed celebrities and he’s working on others, which may or may not include Michael Buble and Adam Levine.
“I just start reaching out to anyone I’ve ever worked with,” he said.
Here are other comments from Riggle during the session and afterward with a Star reporter:
On how he got hooked on fundraising for the hospital: “They took me on a tour of the entire hospital. I watched them do open heart surgery on a 9-day-old baby. I’m a parent. You got me. I’m in.”
On Children’s Mercy Hospital: “It’s a treasure. We have to protect it. We have to take care of it.”
On his hometown: “I do love this town, from the time I was a Cub Scout sitting out in left field watching the Royals. That hasn’t changed.”
On restaurants he likes to visit when he’s “home” (a partial list): Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Chartroose Caboose, Winstead’s, Houston’s, Gates Bar-B-Q, The Classic Cup, JJ’s — “JJ’s is back! I had my rehearsal dinner at the old JJ’s.”
On playing softball this year instead of whiffle ball: “I can’t hit anything. It’ll be embarrassing no matter what I do.”