When the Hollywood boys arrive this week to host Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, it’s not as if they’ll just waltz in after all the detailed groundwork has been laid.
OK, yes. It’s a lot like that. By design.
Kansas City originals Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner are, of course, in the loop about plans for the annual fundraiser they host for Children’s Mercy Hospital. It will be Friday and Saturday.
But it’s a local “brain trust” that drives Big Slick, now in its sixth year. And — how very KC — the clutch of unpaid leaders is largely KC area family, including parents, siblings and in-laws of the five celebrity hosts.
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“Over the years each person has taken on a responsibility, and everyone goes full tilt,” says Kathy Sudeikis, Jason’s mother.
As a travel professional, her chief niche is to make flight and hotel plans for the weekend’s guest celebrities, friends of the five hosts. Johnny Knoxville, Aisha Taylor and Josh Hopkins are among those set to appear.
The celebrity guest list changes year to year. One of Sudeikis’ challenges: obtaining celebrities’ real names, not stage names, and actual birth dates, which are required for booking flights.
“The best way to describe it,” Kathy Sudeikis says about Big Slick planning, “is that it’s like having a birthday party at McDonald’s, where the kids just walk in and have fun. Everything’s ready so the boys can give us their 100 percent for the weekend.”
Gloria Rudd, Paul’s mother, focuses on publicity and the bowling tournament, now in its second year. Big Slick switched from its original poker tourney to bowling at Pinstripes in the Prairiefire shopping center in Overland Park.
Bowling was a big hit last year, she says. This year some outpatients at Children’s Mercy will get to play bocce at Pinstripes with celebrities.
Also new this year: a red carpet entrance into Pinstripes, which will give the public a chance to queue up and see celebrities as they arrive.
Every year, Gloria Rudd says, the organizing committee of family members and close friends irons out the previous year’s wrinkles and introduces new features, hoping to improve the Big Slick experience for everyone and to raise more funds for the hospital. Last year the event took in $1 million.
The changes keep everyone hopping, she says.
“I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about the bowling tournament this year,” Gloria Rudd says, “but I won’t be completely relaxed until it’s over.”
The biggest change for 2015 is that the Celebrity Classic ballgame Friday evening switches from Wiffle ball at the Little K at Kauffman Stadium to softball on the big field.
“This year we’ve been called up to ‘The Show,’” says Mandi Rudd Arnold, Paul’s sister, who with Julie McKee, Rob Riggle’s sister, is leading the 2015 organizers. “We really do have a doubleheader on Friday night.”
Folks who buy tickets to the 7:10 p.m. game between the Royals and Boston Red Sox will be admitted to the 5 p.m. celebrity game.
More fans will get to watch than was possible at the children’s diamond, Rudd Arnold says, and they’ll be allowed to sit close to the field.
Royals president Dan Glass suggested the move, she says.
“Our eyes got really wide, like ‘Did we hear what we just heard?’” Rudd Arnold says. “It’s just another testament to the generosity in Kansas City. There aren’t words to describe it.”
Joan Charbonneau, Koechner’s sister, is in her fourth year with Big Slick. She shepherds Big Slick product merchandising, and plans are in the works for an e-commerce site to open after this year’s event.
Charbonneau also is in charge of “swag,” the gift bags given to celebrities to thank them for participating — and to show off Kansas City area companies big and small. The swag changes every year, she says, but the bags have included items from Garmin, Sock 101, Charlie Hustle, BBQ Addicts, Tivol, Boulevard Brewing Co. and Liberty Fruit Co., to name a few.
“The creative, entrepreneurial spirit here is unbelievable,” Charbonneau says.
A favorite function for her after the weekend events is to take extra fruit and beverages to Children’s Mercy for families to enjoy.
“One mom came up to me and gave me a big hug,” Charbonneau says. “It really touches your heart. I feel blessed to be a part of this. I think each of us grows a little bit every year, too. We learn a little bit more about ourselves.”
Mauria Stonestreet, Eric’s sister, moved back to the area a year and a half ago. In her first venture as part of the planning group, she’s assisting the production of a video about two families whose children were patients at Children’s Mercy.
“My primary focus has been to make this a comfortable experience for these families,” says Stonestreet, an autism specialist, “and to help them share something that is very important to them.”
The video will be screened at the Big Slick auction Saturday night at the Midland theater downtown. Big Slick proceeds go to the cancer center at Children’s Mercy.
“We want it to be a great time, of course, but this helps show what we’re here for,” she says, choking up as she describes the video work. “I get emotional even talking about it.”
A few days before the start of Big Slick, which Rob Riggle has said he hopes will become the city’s marquee annual event, a common term that family members used was “crunch time.”
Assisted by a committee of volunteers who Rudd Arnold says “have become like family,” they seem to be fully up to the challenge.
“We’re entering that stage of planning where we are surviving on caffeine, power bars, apologies to our children and 45 minutes of sleep,” Rudd Arnold says with a laugh. “But it’s absolutely worth it.”
Big Slick Celebrity Weekend
▪ Friday: Celebrity Classic at Kauffman Stadium. Gates open at 4:30 p.m., celebrity softball game at 5 p.m., Royals v. Boston Red Sox at 7:10. Free with admission to the game, but special packages are also available starting at $250.
▪ Saturday morning: Celebrity Bowl at Pinstripes in Prairiefire shopping center, Overland Park. Doors open at 10 a.m., celebrity bowl at 10:30 a.m. Tickets start at $1,250.
▪ Saturday night: Big Slick Celebrity Party and Live Auction at the Midland downtown. VIP party at 6 p.m., doors open at 7, live auction at 8:15. VIP party tickets start at $1,250. Auction tickets start at $50.
For information and tickets, go to bigslickkc.org/events.