Our History

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After Corey “Cocko” Cox was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia in 2004, his friends and family began working together to create the “Cockopalooza” event. Two events were held to support Corey and his family – in 2004 and then again in 2005.  This marked the beginning of our organization and began our long journey as a local fundraising organization aimed at helping local families with children fighting cancer.

It was in 2006 that John Walter, a friend of Corey’s, a founding member of the Cockopalooza event and an Elkhart Central graduate, learned that Steve Starzyk’s son, Payton, was diagnosed with leukemia.  Steve was one of John’s favorite teachers at Central and he felt compelled to do something. So  John  worked to organized a car wash and T-shirt sale fundraiser to support 2-year-old Payton Starzyk, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The car wash was the next Cockopalooza event held and we enlisted the help of many volunteers and friends. Payton is doing well and has since has been an active participant at all events!  In addition to Payton’s success, Steve Starzyk and his wife, Cara, a teacher in the Elkhart schools, joined the program and have been active in contributing to the growth of the organization.

Cara Starzyk, John Walter and friends at carwash to benefit Payton at Ritters on CR 17.

In autumn of 2007, Dave Schnell was diagnosed with leukemia. Dave’s life and career at the Berkey Insurance Agency was put on hold as his family and friends helped put together the pieces. Due to his ongoing treatment at the time of the event Dave could not be present at Cockopalooza 2007, but his children and family celebrated his recovery at the 4th annual Cockopalooza party that was held for the first time at Elcona Country Club. The first ever Elcona event set a new standard and attendance record for the event.


Unfortunately in 2011 Dave Schnell succumbed to his battle with leukemia. Dave’s determined fighting spirit remains an inspiration to the entire Cockopalooza organization and we are pleased to honor his memory with each annual event. He will always be remembered as a member of the Cockopalooza family.

In October of 2008 Cockopalooza supported Kaitlyn Speed and Jackie Jenkins. In a new attendance record over 400 people joined attended the event and $16,800 was raised to be donated! Donations were made to each of the two families and to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Payton Starzyk and dad Steve at Elcona Cockopalooza to benefit Dave Schnell.

Cockopalooza 2009 was held on Saturday, October 10th and again supported two different families. The total raised in 2009 was $23,712! Proceeds went to support 7 year old Lauren Pollock and 10 year old Keri Rohr.  This event was a fantastic success and our largest fundraising total to date!

Cockopalooza 2010 marked a shift in our organization. It was the first year that we teamed up with another organization, United Cancer of Elkhart County, and with our combined efforts we put together a great event. Even though the weather was uncooperative we still managed to raise over $5,000. In our agreement with UCS the proceeds went into a “Cockopalooza Fund” which is reserved for assisting the families with juveniles in our area battling cancer.

Cockopalooza 2011 was held on October 1, 2011.  With the assistance of our fantastic corporate sponsors and a great turnout at Elcona, we raised over $22,000!  New to the 2011 event was the first ever Cockopalooza Cornhole tournament.  This tourney was very well-received and we’re happy to announce it’s return in 2012!

Cockopalooza 2014 brought on a new twist to the annual event by moving to a new location with new faces added to the Cockopalooza Committee!   We moved the event to Downtown Elkhart Central Park and partnered with local event-focused group, Pillars of Elkhart.

Check out our Cockopalooza Facebook page for event information.