Drum Corps Unites Two Madison Families in Fight against ALS

As most of you are aware, drum & bugle corps has a rich heritage in Wisconsin with marching units scattered throughout the State. With thousands of young adults in the activity, dating and serious relationships among drum corps alumni is not uncommon – in many cases leading to marriage. This was the case for Madison residents, John Weekes and Cristin McKenna, who were marching members from two different drum and bugle corps. They married in 2006, and are now proud parents of sons Michael and Matthew Weekes. John and Cristin’s union was typical in many ways. However, they shared an especially unique bond – each had tragically lost a close family member to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

is a degenerative neuromuscular disease with no cure and an average life expectancy of only 3-5 years. It can strike anyone and is sometimes genetically inherited.

John lost his brother, Steve Weekes, in 2005 at the age of 44, and Cristin lost her father, Mike McKenna, in 2001 at the age of 53.

Family Roots in Wisconsin Drum & Bugle Corps
The McKenna and Weekes families are passionate supporters of drum and bugle corps, and their involvement dates back many years. The families were highly involved with the Madison Scouts Junior and Senior Corps, the Appleton Americanos, and the Capitol Sound. Mike McKenna began with the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps as a marching member in 1964, and served afterwards in a variety of volunteer roles, including the Board of Directors.

The Weekes brothers – Karl, Steve and John – joined the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps in the early 80s and 90s. Steve went on to join the drum staff for the Madison Scouts, including the 1988 championship year. Meanwhile, the McKenna siblings, Cristin and Kelley, marched in the Appleton Americanos, while Joe and Tom marched in the Madison Scouts Junior Corps. (Please see the McKenna/Weekes family photos at the end of this article.)

John Weekes and Cristin McKenna met in 1996 because of their family’s dedication to the drum and bugle corps activity. And, not long after Mike McKenna’s diagnosis in 1998 and Steve Weekes’ diagnosis in 1999, John and Cristin had their first date. In the following years, their relationship blossomed; however, in a heartbreaking twist, neither Mike McKenna, nor Steve Weekes would live long enough to celebrate their union.

rock4cure als benefitALS Disease Finds Advocate in Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps
After diagnosis, Steve Weekes wasted no time becoming an advocate for ALS. As he waited for treatment in the ALS clinic with his siblings, Monica and John Weekes, Steve resolved to create a Live Music Fundraiser for ALS. Steve was the drummer for the Wall of Sound, a powerful brass-intense ensemble that eagerly volunteered to headline the event. In 2000, the first annual Rockin For A Cure ALS benefit kicked off with the help of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps.

supermanmissionWith the support of Corps Director Scott Stewart, Madison Scouts, and devoted alumni, Steve Weekes & Mike McKenna quickly found themselves surrounded with a passionate bedrock of support. The impact of Rockin' For A Cure was tremendous, resulting in regular performances by marching members, alumni performances, including the 2006 Madison Scouts Alumni Reunion Project and several bands with Scouts alumni also performed over the years. However, the thing that’s remained a constant is the gathering of Madison alumni each year to sing the signature rallying song for the Corps, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Not long after Steve’s death, ALS struck again in 2010, when Madison Scouts alumnus Charles Eikel became Madison Scouts 3rd victim of the disease. Chuck Eikel marched in the 1950s Madison Scouts and later became a member of the Board of Directors. Information on Chuck, Steve, and Mike can be found at Rockin4ALS.org on the Honor Guard Page. “As you look at these three alums, it’s clear that ALS continues its tragic record of taking some of the very best from us.”

als associationThe ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter
In 2010, Rockin’ For A Cure partnered with the ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter, the premiere flagship of ALS support for research and patient services in Wisconsin. The partnership immediately elevated our organization and strengthened our resolve. At Rockin’ For A Cure 2013 and 2015, ALS Association Patient Advocate Jim Eutizzi gave a tearful, yet hopeful and inspiring speech. Jim was close to our hearts, and in 2016, we were crushed when ALS took his life.

rockin4alsIn 2017, Rockin' For A Cure became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization under the name of Rockin4ALS, Inc. Today, we continue the battle for Jim, Steve, Mike, and Chuck and the thousands of patients currently fighting this disease. “It’s why we do what we do,” says Kelley (McKenna) Lawrenz, VP of Patient & Caregiver Outreach on the Rockin4ALS Board of Directors. Now in its 22nd year, Rockin’ For A Cure has raised more than $175,000 for ALS. This funding provides necessary assistive services and equipment for patients in Wisconsin. In addition, Rockin4ALS Board members volunteer at eight other ALS functions every year.

Don’t miss this year’s event on April 27th at the DoubleTree Madison East. Doors open at 6:00 pm. Please go to Rockin4ALS.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

Contact Information

rock4cure als benefit
Rockin4ALS, Inc
Director: Mike Anello
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

j c weekesJohn & Cristin Weekes sw szSteve Weekes & Son, Zach

m mmMary and Mike McKenna ce fChuck Eikel and Family

wf cWeekes Family with Cristin (McKenna) Weekes sw msSteve Weekes – Madison Scouts

mf jwMcKenna Family with John Weekes mm msMike McKenna – Madison Scouts

 cw asCristin (McKenna) Weekes – Americanos kl aKelley (McKenna) Lawrenz – Americanos

j tm mjsJoe & Tom McKenna – Madison Jr. Scouts

jw msJohn Weekes – Madison Scouts k sw msKarl and Steve Weekes in uniform – Madison Scouts

wf mfWeekes and McKenna Families at 2014 Rockin’ For A Cure

Future Events

21 Apr
MSAA Monthly Meeting
Date Apr 21, 2024 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

These meetings are open to all alumni of the Madison Scouts. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to receive a Zoom invitation to attend any meeting. We welcome all alumni to join us. Times listed are in Central Time.

27 Apr
Rockin' For A Cure
Apr 27, 2024 6:30 PM - 10:30 PM

MSARP All-Stars Alumni Brass Ensemble perform and group singing of You’ll Never Walk Alone. 

Join MSAA today!

chapter map

How? Simply sign-up at CorpsData.net. Enter and maintain your corps & contact information on a regular basis

Go to CorpsData

*Minimum requirement: one full year as a marching member of the Madison Scouts D & B Corps

MSAA Newsletter Sign-up

Receive the MSAA monthly newsletter appropriately called "The Fleur-de-lis" directly in your inbox. First, verify your info at CorpsData. See Join MSAA Today! Next, add your full name and email, and then click the Subscribe button to complete the process.

IMPORTANT: Please add the email address newsletter@madisonscoutsalumni.org to your address book to prevent our emails from going to your SPAM folder.