Back in 2010, Rob Riggle called fellow Shawnee Mission graduates Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis with an idea. “Let’s host a poker tournament to raise money for Children’s Mercy.” Without hesitation, they each agreed and immediately called upon their family and friends to help pull it off.
After proposing the idea of a poker tournament and party to Children’s Mercy, and with only nine weeks of planning, the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend was born.
The hope was to raise enough to donate $50,000 and bring in a few celebri- ty guests to help. Instead, Big Slick ended up donating over $120,000—with help from friends like Will Ferrell, Director Adam McKay, Bobby Cannavale, George Wendt and SNL Alum Will Forte.
The goal for 2012 was ambitious: Bring in more celebrities and raise enough to net $150,000. With help from friends like Jon Hamm, David Koechner, John Oliver, Nick Kroll, Kevin Pollak, Matt Walsh, Andrea Savage, Dermot Mulroney, Joe Lo Truglio, they raised over $300,000 for the hospital— mostly through sponsorships and proceeds from the live auction.
With unique auction items such as tickets to Hollywood movie premieres, on-set movie and television visits and a KU basketball game with Rob Riggle and Coach Self, the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend was getting bigger.
If you’re from Kansas City, you have a connection to Children’s Mercy Hospital. This community is incredibly lucky to have a world-renowned facility for its children: the cutting edge research; the level of care; the fact that no one gets turned away even if they can’t pay. Parents in and around Kansas City sleep better at night knowing that Children’s Mercy is close by.
Every year, the guys and their celebrity guests visit the hospital to play with the kids. It means as much to them as it does to the kids, their families and the staff. By personally getting to know the facilities and the treatment offered to the kids, the guys took the stage at the Midland Theatre in 2012 with a renewed sense of purpose and announced that donations from Big Slick would go specifically to the Cancer Center at Children’s Mercy. In 2012, not wanting to run before walking, a realistic goal of $250,000 was set, and once again Big Slick doubled the goal by raising $525,000 and a three-year total just under $1 million. Because the entire event is planned and supported by the volunteer efforts of the family, friends, and the help of Children's Mercy staff, Big Slick tries very hard to keep expenses to a minimum and dollars directly to the kids at a maximum. This means everyone had to roll up his or her sleeves. Early on, Paul’s mom, Gloria Rudd, would explain to people that, “Big Slick truly is a family event. It started with ‘I’ll make the costumes, Aunt Tillie will make the curtains and we'll put on a show." The reality wasn't too far off.
Paul’s mom didn’t make costumes, but she used her media background to help promote the event. Jason’s mom, Kathy Sudeikis, used her years as a travel agent to get all of the hosts and the celebrity guests in and out of Kansas City. And Rob’s sister, Julie McKee, an attorney, and brother-in-law, Mark McKee, a successful restaurateur, used their combined experience to pull the logistics of the weekend together. Their families and friends, many of whom have become like family, continue to volunteer hundreds of hours of time each year to bring the annual event back to Kansas City.
Going into 2013, it seemed a formula for success had been established: Rob, Paul and Jason’s celeb- rity friends came out for the weekend and donated auction items, local businesses and family founda- tions sponsored the event and in-kind donations helped offset food, beverage, and event costs. Big Slick 2013 resulted in $625,000 for the Cancer Center, with the majority of the funds going to the purchase of a piece of advanced early detection equipment.
The benefits have not just been financial. Over the years the attention that Big Slick has brought to Children’s Mercy has helped with their recruiting efforts attracting top talent. Big Slick also helped to expose an even larger audience to the nationally recognized work being done at the Cancer Center.
Having raised $1.5 million, Rob, Paul and Jason invited Big Slick alumni and area natives Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner as to join them as hosts. Together the five of them, along with their families and friends, are hard at work planning this year’s event.
A key part of the formula for Big Slick’s success comes from Rob’s background in the military (he served nine years active duty in the Marines and another 13 years in the reserves). When decisions have to be made, Rob’s advice from the very be- ginning continues to resonate. “Crawl. Walk. Run.”
Through hard work, patience, creativity and a whole lot of fun, Big Slick has made an impact on the lives of children and their families through investments in one of the community’s most valuable assets.
Join the fun of this year’s Big Slick Celebrity Weekend on June 20th & 21st starting at the Little K at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night, June 20, for the Celebrity Classic at 5:30 p.m. (gates to Kauffman Stadium open at 5:00pm). On Saturday June 21, instead of playing poker this year, Big Slick will be hosting a Celebrity Bowl at Pinstripes Bowling, Bocce and Bistro Located at Prairiefire in Overland Park starting at 10:30 AM (doors open at 10 AM). And then later that night it’s back to the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland on for the Party & Auction. A VIP Sponsor Party begins at 6:30 PM, doors to the theatre will open at 7:30 PM and the Party & Auction starts at 8:15 PM.
The Children’s Mercy Cancer Center mission is to help improve the physical and emotional well being of children with cancer and their families. The center provides comprehensive care to nearly 2,000 children each year with childhood cancers, sickle cell disease, hemophilia and other blood disorders. At any given time, the Center is participating in nearly 100 clinical trials, including several national trials led by Children’s Mercy investigators. Trial groups include the Children’s Oncology Group, the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators Consortium. In 2012, the Center received accreditation from American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, which recognizes hospitals that meet the highest standards for cancer care. For more information about Children’s Mercy and its research, visit www.childrensmercy.org.