The Cruise for Life Story

Cruise for Life was born in the summer of 2004, out of a sheer desire to do good; to find a way to give back and give thanks for all of the blessings in our lives. We were by no means wealthy, but we felt that we had everything that we needed. We felt truly blessed.

As we cruised the coast of Maine that summer, Marcie and I had many discussions about the future. We were ready to start a family and were looking forward to the adventure of our lives! That being said, our conversations all came back to the simple premise, “how can we give back, how can we make a difference?”

Cruise for Life was conceived through those discussions. It was a simple concept, really, “let’s combine our passion for boating and being on the water, with raising money for a cause near and dear to everyone’s hearts, cancer research and finding a cure for cancer.” As the discussions continued, the idea of a family friendly boating event continued to evolve. We came home from that vacation with grand plans to launch Cruise for Life. We also came home from that vacation pregnant.


Ellie was born in the spring of 2005, and our lives changed forever. We continued to discuss Cruise for Life, knowing that we weren’t in a position to make it happen just yet, but the concept continued to form. Two years later, Ellie’s brother Evan was born, and our lives got even more complicated. We were now two working parents and two young children…busier than ever, but we couldn’t have been happier. Again, Cruise for Life was pushed to the back burner, knowing that the desire was still there but the time wasn’t.


On July 30th, 2010, our lives again were drastically changed. This time our world was rocked. Phyllis Handler, my beloved grandmother; Ellie & Evan’s “Grammy”, had passed away after a long battle with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

I hope you all have been lucky enough to have someone like “Grammy” in your life. She was the center of our family. Grammy taught us all that there is nothing more important than family. She loved her husband, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren more than anything in this world. If you were one of those people lucky enough to feel that love, you held on to it; you cherished it and you tried to pass it on to those most important in your life.

We were lucky, in that CLL progresses more slowly than other types of leukemia, and Grammy received world class treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Because of those facts, Ellie and Evan had some great years with their Grammy. Incredible memories that we will carry with us, always.

When Grammy died, Marcie and I, together, knew it was time. It was the time to put Cruise for Life back on the “front burner”.

It took about a year to get our lives in a position where the time could be devoted to getting Cruise for Life off the ground. Now we are 2 working parents with 2 young kids and 3 jobs… won’t be easy, but we’re making the time. It is our commitment to our family so that Grammy’s memory will live with us and with Ellie & Evan, forever, and so others can receive cancer treatments that cure or extend time with their loved ones.

All the best,

Michael Handler
Cruise for Life Founder and Executive Director

Join the fight against cancer. Join Cruise for Life…Get involved.

Do it for yourselves; Do it for your family; your parent, sister, brother or friend. Do it for your “Grammy”.