It’s not every day you find yourself playing cards with Olivia Wilde, but Jonte Smith took it in stride Friday morning at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“You got any 10s?” the 7-year-old asked the ponytailed movie star.
“Go fish!” replied Wilde, sitting across from Jonte, whose wheelchair was scooted up to a low table in a playroom on the hematology/oncology floor.
Wilde had given him the deck of Big Slick playing cards, which she’d labeled “Special Magic Cards.” Next to her autograph on a tote bag, she wrote “You are awesome!!!!!”
Jonte is battling sickle cell anemia and a recurrence of leukemia, said his mom, Michelle Williams of Kansas City.
That face-to-face moment and others between Hollywood stars and young patients were made possible by this weekend’s Big Slick events, including a poker tourney Saturday at Harrah’s and an after-party at the Midland theater.
Big Slick’s three hosts — funny men Rob Riggle, Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis — also got in on the meet-and-greet with Children’s Mercy patients, as did Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”), Kevin Pollak (“A Few Good Men”), Samm Levine (“Inglourious Basterds”) and Jon Glaser (“Parks and Recreation”).
About a dozen stars are in town this weekend for Big Slick.
Wilde, incidentally, is Sudeikis’ fiancee, and no, no wedding details were disclosed. Sudeikis, Rudd and Riggle are all from Johnson County.
Steps away from the Go Fish game, Rudd greeted Justin McKnight with “How are ya, buddy?” Justin, who turned 17 on Thursday, was in a bed that had been wheeled to the hallway. He has eight tumors, including one in his head and one in his neck, said his mom, Bobbi Morales of Trenton, Mo.
“We’ve been fighting it about three years now,” Morales said.
Rudd signed a gray T-shirt for Justin and then admired the hot-pink T-shirt the young man was wearing: “Parental Advisory: Girls Love Me.”
“I’m back because they found more tumors,” Justin told Rudd.
“I’m sorry,” Rudd said, shaking his head.
Later, the star could be found hanging out in a corner with Madison Occhipinto, 20, of Kansas City, her boyfriend, Brandon Coca, and her IV pole. Asked for a picture, Rudd borrowed Occhipinto’s cellphone and held it out in front of them.
“He’s a lot nicer than I expected him to be,” Occhipinto reported later. “He’s really sweet.”
They talked mostly about his movies. Her favorite: “Knocked Up.”
Her treatment for a bone cancer should be wrapped up by the end of August, Occhipinto said.
When the stars weren’t chatting up the kids, they were signing anything and everything. Sudeikis autographed both a bag (“Hi Mando!!”) and a Big Slick baseball for Armando Serrano, 11, of Newton, Kan.
The “SNL” star (who wouldn’t say if he’s returning to the show) also met both Mariah Phelps, 9, and her doll, Brielle. The family is stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. Mariah’s mom, Yolanda, said her daughter recognized Sudeikis from “SNL” even though she’s not supposed to stay up that late.
At a news conference at the hospital, the Big Slick hosts did some clowning around for reporters, but the point of the hometown visit was never far from their minds.
Riggle said the three want to stay connected to Kansas City. Plus, he and Rudd have children, so they can empathize with parents of the kids at Children’s Mercy.
“So can I,” Sudeikis chimed in.
“No, not so much,” Riggle joked.
The trio returned for a fourth year of Big Slick because “we’re just addicted to feeling good and trying to make other people feel good,” Sudeikis said.
Then, switching to comedy mode: “If anything, it’s a problem.”
Rudd, in T-shirt and jeans, was seen ambling into the hospital’s lobby at 9:25 Friday morning, looking like any other visitor. His two co-horts were casually dressed as well. Sudeikis, in a long-sleeve shirt and jeans, sported the Baldwin Denim “KC” hat he’s often seen in. Riggle and Wilde wore Charlie Hustle “KC Heart” T-shirts.
Friday evening, the celebs took part in a Wiffle ball game at Kauffman Stadium’s Little K — on one of the hottest days of the year. Sudeikis said the plan was for the players to douse one another with giant water guns “filled with Febreze.”
Children’s Mercy officials said that over the years Big Slick has raised about $1 million for its cancer center. The hospital treats about 2,000 kids with cancer annually, including about 200 who are newly diagnosed each year.
Riggle, Rudd and Sudeikis gave a shout-out to their family and friends, who, they said, are instrumental in putting the weekend together. Rudd’s mother, Gloria, was also on hand, beaming at the press conference.
“This is what it’s about,” Gloria Rudd said later, as her son and the other celebs were visiting with patients. “How do you come to something like this and not (gain) some perspective on your life?”
Among other stars expected to take part in Big Slick weekend: Wilmer Valderrama (“That ’70s Show”); Damon Wayans Jr. (ABC’s “Happy Endings”); Will Forte (NBC’s “SNL”); James Marsden (“X-Men,” “The Notebook”); Johnny Knoxville (“Jackass”); J.K. Simmons (“The Closer” and those Farmers Insurance ads); and Angela Kinsey (“The Office”).
Balcony seats for a Midland theater party are $75 atbigslickkc.org
or at the door. The event, at 8 p.m., includes a live auction of Hollywood set visits. Check out anonline auction, too. Deadline for bids: 10:59 p.m. July 27.
The poker tourney at Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino sold out.
To reach Tim Engle, call816-234-4779 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @tim_engle