LONG BRANCH — Eight years ago, a few of Ted Friedli's very good friends were unexpectedly hit with the news they had cancer. Friedli's desire to pay forward his experience in the travel industry to these friends and their families resulted in the creation of the nonprofit Kick Cancer Overboard, which has since given away 268 free cruises, all to New Jersey families.

Anyone whose life has been affected by cancer, whether it be their own diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, or solidarity for a friend or family member, can go to Kick Cancer Overboard's website and apply for a spot on the organization's annual cruise to Bermuda.

"Everybody that we sponsor with a free cruise, they always cruise together on the same ship as a group, so they can make new friends and share their memories and build long-lasting relationships," Friedli said.

The reveal of the cruise recipients is always a surprise, done through one of the nonprofit's many annual fundraisers. Those events typically include a concert, fashion shows, marathons, and a golf outing.

In selecting recipients, Friedli said he tries to identify families who, under their best circumstances, would not be able to take such a vacation. But he contends that when you have your health, there should be nothing else to worry about.

"Many times the last thing they will do is think of taking a vacation, but then again, many times that's the most important thing," he said. "That's the most valuable thing that they can do, is take a vacation."

Friedli said that because Kick Cancer Overboard has no real expenses, 100 percent of donations received go directly to covering the cost of the cruises. And the impact the organization has made is a lasting one; some families who have benefited from a free cruise in the past now volunteer with the group, or sponsor other families.

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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