Paul Rudd may not consider himself a talented softball player, but when it’s time to take the field for the annual Big Slick celebrity softball game, that doesn’t matter. What matters is raising money for the Cancer Center at Children’s Mercy, a not-for-profit hospital that provides care for children from birth through the age of 21.
The game is just one of a series of events that takes place over the course of the annual Big Slick Celebrity Weekend in Kansas City, Mo. Each year, hometown hosts Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Rob Riggle, David Koechner and Eric Stonestreet recruit a band of celebrity guests to visit the kids in the hospital and help bring in donations.
On Friday, the first day of the 10th annual Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, Rudd spoke to TIME about how much the charity event — which started out as a simple poker game — has come to mean to him over the past decade.
“Each year we’re figuring more things out, it’s becoming a bigger deal to the city, we’re raising more money, and we’ve also gotten to know the doctors at the hospital, the staff at the hospital and a lot of the kids and the families that have been at the hospital,” he explained. “It has become a very personal endeavor for us. And the fact that it’s here, in this town where the five of us grew up and our families still live, makes it very fulfilling for us.”
At this point, the event has been going on for so long that, when it first began, Rudd says many of the kids at Children’s Mercy didn’t even know who he was.
“It used to be, I would come here and none of the kids really knew who I was. This was pre-Marvel,” he explained before describing his thought process during those visits. “Is this going to be weird? I’m going to go into some room talking to some kid when chances are they haven’t seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
Of course, now that Rudd has made his mark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Ant-Man, things have changed.
This year, Rudd says the Big Slick crew hopes to crack the $10-million donation mark, every single dollar of which goes right to the hospital. And with the help of celebrity guests like Selena Gomez and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it seems like that won’t be a problem.
“It’s an incredible thing to see Selena Gomez walk into the hospital room of a 13-year-old girl,” Rudd said of the group’s Friday morning visit to Children’s Mercy. “The temperature in the room changes.”
As far as Rudd is concerned, getting to see that type of reaction from the kids makes everything worth it.
“One of the things that we’ve realized is that the fighting spirit of a lot of the kids that are here is an example of how to live your life. They’re the most loving, positive, incredible group of kids — and the families too. I think all of us as hosts have gotten very close to kids that have been at the hospital,” Rudd said. “The relationship that we have with this place now is so intense that it’s become part of our lives.”
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