After two years of virtual fundraising, Big Slick Celebrity Weekend roared back, raising a record $3.5 million for the Cancer Center at Children’s Mercy hospital.
“We’re back,” co-host Paul Rudd greeted an enthusiastic crowd inside the T-Mobile Center Saturday night.
Boy, were they.
More than 30 celebrities, several with Missouri and Kansas ties, joined Rudd and his fellow hometown hosts — Eric Stonestreet, Rob Riggle and David Koechner — for the annual event.
After a Friday night softball game at Kauffman Stadium and Saturday’s variety show and auction, Big Slick raised more money than any time in its 13-year history.
“Hats off to you, Kansas City. You made this happen,” Riggle said in announcing the fundraising total, repeating it several times for emphasis — $3,523,637.
Co-host Jason Sudeikis, who couldn’t be there, made his presence known 200,000 ways. He had to cancel at the last minute because of the production schedule of his Emmy-winning show, “Ted Lasso,” in London.
But Sudeikis and several of his castmates appeared in a video, giving enthusiastic shoutouts to Kansas City and Children’s Mercy.
People come to the Big Slick party prepared to bid high on auction items.
Sudeikis offered a “Ted Lasso” package that included a trip to London and a walk-on spot on the show. When someone bid $100,000, Stonestreet, holding a cellphone to his ear on stage, said Sudeikis was telling him he would offer two packages if someone else would bid $100,000 as well.
Another big ticket item: $50,000 for a chance to announce a selection live from the podium at next spring’s NFL Draft in Kansas City, with a worldwide audience of 35 million watching
The winner was Scott Gorran of Indiana, who also bought one of the $100,000 “Ted Lasso” packages.
In 2019, at the last live Big Slick auction, Gorran, a Kansas City Chiefs super-fan, also paid $55,000 for the biggest money-maker of that night, a barbecue and whiskey dinner for eight with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and teammates.
Riggle raised another $60,000 with a “KU Basketball Experience” that included two tickets to a University of Kansas basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse, a meet-and-greet with Coach Bill Self and drinks and a meal with Riggle at The Oread Hotel next to campus.
Again, when the high bid hit $30,000, Riggle said he would make two packages available, then led the Jayhawks in the crowd in the KU school song.
Rudd offered a trip for two to attend next year’s red carpet premiere in Los Angeles of his newest superhero movie, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” He threw in a grilled cheese sandwich, and the promise that a “Marvel premiere is unlike any other.” He also offered not one, but two packages, for a total of $72,000.
But it wasn’t a celebrity who inspired bidders to dig the deepest into their wallets. It was a woman most people in Kansas City are used to seeing in a white doctor’s coat in front of reporters.
A video featured the work of Children’s Mercy pediatrician Dr. Angela Myers, who has become a familiar face during the COVID-19 pandemic. The video revealed that Myers herself was a pediatric cancer patient at the hospital when she was in high school.
Myers joined the celebrities on stage, and the hundreds of people in the T-Mobile Center stood and applauded.
Then guests donated another $300,000, and then some.
The raucous party began with comedian Seth Herzog, known for doing just about anything for a laugh, stripping down to his red undies, and it ended more than three hours later with Missouri native and rock goddess Sheryl Crow lighting up the crowd well past 11 p.m.
In between, it was like a fun night at home with friends, only inside a big arena and your friends are, well, really talented and funny. They do stand-up comedy, magic tricks and can sing.
The man who made Rudd cry on YouTube, Sean Evans, hosted a Big Slick edition of his show, “Hot Ones,” in which Rudd and Stonestreet led two teams answering quiz questions and eating hot wings.
Rudd’s face glistened like a glazed doughnut when he started sweating after downing the hottest wing.
James Van Der Beek showed he still has the dancing skills he learned on “Dancing With the Stars” by taking a turn on stage with pro dancer Brittany Cherry. The “Dawson’s Creek” actor earned enthusiastic applause and shouts when he took off his shirt.
Blue Springs native and “American Idol” winner David Cook sang what could have been the theme song for the night, The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Big Slick newbies, twins and jazz musicians Adeev and Ezra Potash, played, too, on their “Horns of Joy.” The brothers are from up the road in Omaha.
It was a first time for Crow, too, who said she has admired the fundraiser over the years and had been tempted to call the hosts and invite herself to participate. “I’ve made a lot of new friends here,” she told the audience.
It’s doubtful that anyone in the crowd would mind seeing her become a regular.
She told how she and her band visited children’s hospitals as they toured, which included a stop at Children’s Mercy, “pre-COVID,” she said.
“You just have no idea the power of intention of just being in a room and giving money. You don’t know the outcome of that, but I can guarantee you that it’s all positive.”
She launched into “Every Day Is a Winding Road,” which she said “has new meaning this year.”
Because of the pandemic, the annual fundraiser for Children’s Mercy had to go online-only in 2020 and 2021.
It began as a poker tournament in 2010 — Big Slick is the name of a poker hand — and grew into a weekend of events coordinated by the hosts’ sisters, mothers and other family members.
The events have always included quieter moments at the hospital, with the hosts and their celebrity pals visiting with the young cancer patients and their parents and staff. This year’s visit included a rousing game of safe, socially distanced “Friendly Feud.”
“We’re in the hope business,” Stonestreet told the media Friday at a press conference at the hospital. “When you’re sitting in a room and you get the diagnosis of cancer, what I hope Big Slick and Children’s Mercy is, … is that little moment of hope.”
A few hours later the celebrities played a softball game before the Royals game at Kauffman Stadium that included a now-signature bench-clearing brawl. No Hollywood faces were harmed in the making of the brawl.
Before this year, Big Slick had raised more than $13 million since 2010.