Big Slick Celebrity Weekend No. 9 began with a lovefest Friday between Kansas City and some of her favorite sons.
Rob Riggle, Paul Rudd, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner dropped by Children's Mercy hospital to claim it was they who were the winners in the annual fundraiser for the pediatric cancer unit.
"It kind of makes us feel a little dirty, in my opinion, because everyone is no nice to us and complimentary of us but we leave here with a bankful of smiles and love, and it feels a little like we're getting too much credit because we are getting so much in return," Stonestreet said at a kickoff press conference.
To be sure, Children's Mercy and its roughly 180 new child cancer patients a year benefit from the more than $6 million raised since 2010 to support comprehensive medical care, pediatric research, playrooms, family rooms and education.
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Homeboy Jason Sudeikis was to arrive later Friday, and the Big Slick gang was to be joined by a record 40-plus other celebrities for two days of altruistic fun.
"If you're ever depressed, down, not feeling good or whatever, do something for somebody else and it makes you feel great," said Riggle. "We're so blessed every year we get to come here and do whatever small thing we can as a part of this team to help."
Asked what the experience means personally, Koechner offered the word "humility."
"You're humble any time you walk in here," he said of Children's Mercy and its doctors, nurses and other staff. "My wife said yesterday, 'What's your intention for the weekend?' I thought, well, it is to be of service."
Rudd said it is rewarding to meet the families of child cancer patients because they often get overlooked.
"It's incredibly painful as a parent, a sibling," he said. "It's nice to spend a little time getting to know the families."
Michael Artman, pediatrician-in-chief at Children's Mercy, said the hospital has to tell a family their child has cancer roughly every other day.
"But thanks to cancer research and support from Big Slick and others, that message these days is always accompanied by 'we've got this,'" Artman said. "We have a plan. We know how to treat this. There is good reason for hope and optimism and, what's more, we're going to be with you on every step of your journey."
After the press conference, hospital staff brought several cancer patients into the room, some in wheelchairs and some with IV bags. The Big Slick celebrities spent time individually with the children, eliciting smiles by talking and joking with them and playing games.
Riggle recalled that he and his Big Slick partners were just feeling their way in the beginning, raising $122,000 the first year. Last year the event raised a record $1.75 million.
"These things have a way of snowballing organically," Rudd said.
Big Slick has offers three big events that are open to the public:
▪ The celebrity softball game at 5 p.m. Friday at Kauffman Stadium. See royals.com/bigslick.
▪ The free block party from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday outside Pinstripes in Prairiefire in Overland Park. Celebrities are expected to arrive on the red carpet around 9:15 a.m. before heading in to the sold-out bowling tournament.
▪ The charity auction at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland is sold out. But through Saturday, anyone can bid at bigslickkc.org on some auction items.