Big Slick Celebrity Weekend a big benefit for children's hospital

A mock brawl ensued at the conclusion of Friday evening's Big Slick Celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium. At left are Paul Rudd and Kevin Rahm being held back by Royals mascot Slugrrr.
A mock brawl ensued at the conclusion of Friday evening's Big Slick Celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium. At left are Paul Rudd and Kevin Rahm being held back by Royals mascot Slugrrr. rsugg@kcstar.com

It’s a bunch of fun — celebrities everywhere, softball at the K, bowling and bocce, an auction party — but Big Slick Celebrity Weekend all starts at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Before the Big Slick fundraising events, Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner gathered Friday morning to chat and play games with some of the hospital’s patients.

“He’s smokin’ me!” said Rob Riggle about his young Connect Four opponent, who grinned ear to ear.

Michael Artman, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Mercy, welcomed the five celebrity hosts to the hospital Friday and noted that the two-day fundraiser, now in its sixth year, couldn’t officially begin until he said these words:

“The boys are back in town!”

That’s good news for the hospital, which Artman said has received $2.25 million from Big Slick in the past five years.

The money has benefited the hospital’s cancer center, including funds for its bone marrow transplant program and advanced equipment for early detection, Artman said.

The hospital averages about 180 new cancer diagnoses a year, he said.

“Every other day here a family hears those dreaded words, ‘Your child has cancer,’” he said.

Artman said he was grateful the five celebrity hosts have seen the medical needs and recognized the big difference the celebs can make.

“These are busy guys,” he said in a room filled with cameras and reporters. “They’re here because they have huge hearts.”

Friday’s main event is the 5 p.m. softball game at Kauffman Stadium. The game this year switches from the stadium’s Little K to the big league field. Anyone with a ticket to the Royals-Red Sox 7:10 p.m. game can come early and watch.

On Saturday, there’s a 10 a.m. bowling event at Pinstripes in Overland Park and the evening party and auction at the Midland downtown.

Every year the hosts invite celebrity guests to play in the ballgame and attend fundraising events. This year’s guest list includes Aisha Tyler, Chris Daughtry, George Wendt, Hilarie Burton, James Van Der Beek, Joe Lo Truglio, Johnny Knoxville, Josh Hopkins and Neil Flynn.

After Artman’s appreciative words Friday about the celebrities, the hosts were quick to throw the spotlight back on the hospital.

“We’re just actors, at the end of the day,” Stonestreet said. “We’re not saving lives every day like the doctors and nurses here.”

Rudd said he and the others were amazed by the growth of Big Slick, which started that first year with the hope of raising $50,000.

“It’s humbling and exciting,” he said, adding a thank you to the celebrities’ Kansas City area families and an “army of volunteers” who plan and run the event.

Of course, with the five actors/comedians in attendance, each with a microphone, they had their fun.

Rudd was asked if Ant-Man — the superhero he plays in the upcoming movie — might step in Friday evening if the Royals needed help with the Boston Red Sox. He carefully considered the question.

“I’d have to really look into the rule book,” he said. “I’m just saying, there is the capability.”

After the news conference, the members of the media were allowed to stay for a few minutes to take photos and video of the celebrities talking and playing games with patients.

The hosts agreed that the patient part of Big Slick, the time spent at the hospital, was special.

“There’s no script,” Riggle said. “There’s nothing pre-thought. You just go in and try to connect. You try to brighten their day.”

Big Slick Celebrity Weekend

Today: 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 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.

Among the auction items: “Angry Birds” premiere and after party with Jason Sudeikis; “Modern Family” set visit with Eric Stonestreet plus tickets to the Ellen DeGeneres show; KU basketball package with Rob Riggle, including a meeting with Coach Bill Self; Kansas City Chiefs game-day suite experience with David Koechner for 12 people; “Brooklyn Nine Nine” set vist and tour with Joe Lo Truglio; “Saturday Night Live” tickets for season 41 plus tickets to “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

For information and tickets, go to bigslickkc.org.

To reach Edward M. Eveld, call 816-234-4442 or send email to eeveld@kcstar.com. On Twitter @eeveld.

Related stories from Kansas City Star