Superstars of Big Slick return to Kansas City for another year of spreading smiles and raising money

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They've come home from Hollywood, bringing laughs and more with them.

The annual Big Slick Celebrity Weekend is underway, beginning with a Friday morning hospital visit for the gathering's four biggest names. This quartet of celebrities use this occasion to raise money to help sick kids.

They started in humble Kansas City, before taking on television and the movies. The superstars of Big Slick -- Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet, Paul Rudd and David Koechner -- are back in town, playing softball and spreading smiles while helping children with cancer. Their pal, Jason Sudekis, wasn't on hand at Friday's news conference, but he was in Friday afternoon's celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium.

Softball, and Saturday morning's celebrity bowling tournament, are part of the fun, but the fundraising is the real reason these stars continue to come home each year. Children's Mercy Hospital, the event's beneficiary, says during the past eight years, the Big Slick guys have helped raise $4.5 million.

"Now, you're here, and you're like, I'm so glad I got out of bed," Stonestreet said, while making one sick child laugh.

Dr. Mike Artman, Children's Mercy Hospital's pediatrician-in-chief, says the hospital diagnoses 180 children per year with some form of cancer. Dr. Artman says the Big Slick fundraiser helps fuel as many as 100 clinical trials, all of which are researching new means of cancer treatment.

"It's not just for Kansas City, but it covers a massive region. There are people who are flown in here from all around, from western Kansas from everywhere. The work they do here is phenomenal," Riggle said.

"We get something out of it also. Raising money for the hospital and raising money for these kids is an honor and it feels really nice," Stonestreet added.

The Big Slick celebs spent several hours with the ailing children and their families. The hospital says, in past years, the celebs have remained at the hospital long after media members left the building.

"Any real happiness comes from being able to do something that's not really for yourself," Rudd said.