Hometown celebrities descended on Children’s Mercy hospital Friday morning to spread the word about their Big Slick Celebrity Weekend fundraiser and spread a little love among the patients and families there.
“Real happiness comes from being able to do something that doesn’t benefit yourself,” said Paul Rudd, who with fellow actors and Big Slick hosts Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner gave a news conference at the hospital before a meet-and-greet session with patients. (The fifth host, Jason Sudeikis, was flying in from New York after attending fiancee Olivia Wilde’s opening night on Broadway the night before.)
“I love this day, when we get to meet the kids,” Riggle said when asked for his favorite part of the annual fundraiser for the hospital’s cancer center.
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“As an actor, I’ve sometimes struggled with my identity and my contributions to the world,” said Stonestreet, who found fame in his Emmy-winning role on “Modern Family.” “But this has been an opportunity for us to feel good about our career.”
The morning was a mix of heartfelt sentiment and good-natured barbs. Koechner, who grew up in Tipton, Mo., counts Kansas City as his second hometown, since several relatives now live here and his wife, Leigh, like Riggle, is a Shawnee Mission South graduate.
“My family, they all live in Overland Park, and my wife is from Overland Park — nothing greater than a Raider,” Koechner said.
To which Rudd had to throw in a shoutout to his high school, Shawnee Mission West, the alma mater of Sudeikis as well: “Well, you say there’s nothing greater than a Raider, but I’ve been known to take a liking to a Viking.”
Stonestreet joked he was just happy to be home “having my mom do my laundry.”
Later on Friday, the hosts and their 26 celebrity guests were scheduled for the annual softball game at Kauffman Stadium. Asked if their ball skills have improved, Stonestreet said, “My softball skills have always been a 10, not sure I can get much better.” (Back in his days at Piper High School, Stonestreet threw shot put and discus.)
After the news conference, the celebrities moved on for fun and games with Children’s Mercy’s young patients, playing Jenga, Connect 4 and the like.
Celebrity guest and “American Idol” winner David Cook of Blue Springs joined in for a game of cards.
Magician Blake Vogt, making his first Big Slick appearance, entertained the kids with card tricks.
On Thursday, Koechner, Rudd and Riggle stopped in at Children’s Mercy to entertain some of the staff with stand-up comedy and a lively Q&A session, where they revealed some of their favorite spots around Kansas City.
Since 2010, Big Slick has donated more than $4.5 million for expansions to provide better stays for patients and families, for groundbreaking research and for the purchase of advanced medical equipment. Last year alone, the event raised more than $1.3 million, its biggest haul yet.
This year, the fundraiser added a new element: a nationwide raffle with a prize of a VIP pass to all the events and a chance to join in the celebrity softball game. The winner was Megan Henley of California, whose father grew up in Kansas City.
This year’s total will be announced at the conclusion of events Saturday night.
The first public event is the celebrity softball game, starting at 5 p.m. Friday at Kauffman Stadium. Anyone with a ticket to that night’s Royals game can attend. Buy through bigslickkc.org and a portion goes to the charity.
A free block party starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday outside Pinstripes in Overland Park’s Prairiefire, featuring a red carpet event at 9:45 a.m. Celebs and ticketholders will compete in a charity bowling tournament at 10:30.
That night is the sold-out silent auction and party at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland.