Mission Statement

  • The Leukemia Ironman Fundraiser for Eric (L.I.F.E.) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to cancer survivorship by providing assistance to cancer patients in need, scholarship programs, and donating to cancer research laboratories. We will help draw awareness and contribute towards finding more effective treatments, and one day, a cure.

About L.I.F.E.

If you are between the age of 18 and 30 and currently battling cancer, and would like to apply for financial assistance from L.I.F.E., please click on the Get Help above.

The history of life involves a young man from Two Rivers, WI named Eric McLean.  On June 23, 2003 he was first diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia at just 18 years old.  Eric's older brother Mike signed up to compete in the Ironman Wisconsin that fall for him, and his father Brian came up with the monniker Leukemia Ironman Fundraiser for Eric (L.I.F.E.).  In a little over a month, $12,000 was raised and donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for cancer research.  After two intense rounds of chemotherapy, Eric achieved remission for the first time and received a stem cell transplant from Mike.

Then on December 24, 2007, after 4-1/2 years of being cancer free, the news came that Eric McLean's leukemia had relapsed.  So at 23 years old and having just graduated from college, Eric again went through intense chemotherapy treatments and radiation, but this time receiving a stem cell transplant from his younger sister Lindsey.  L.I.F.E. made a comeback as Mike again ran in the Ironman Wisconsin on September 7, 2008, and we raised nearly $16,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Eric was cancer free again for nearly a year until June 5, 2009, when his AML relapsed again.  Only this time doctors gave him a terminal prognosis, saying it could not be cured.  He immediately began a journey to complete his bucket list - a list of things he wanted to accomplish before it was too late: skydiving, driving in a Dodge Viper, gambling in Las Vegas, going to the Caribbean with his family, riding in a hot air balloon, and so much more.  It could not have been done without the support and help of many friends, family, and people whom we have never even met.  Eric was advised not to treat it, for fear that it would only make him very sick, with the same fatal outcome.  He chose to fight it.  Just 2 of his 11 doctors agreed to it.  They tried a regimen of Decitabine and Mylotarg that had never really been attempted before on a patient as young as Eric.  It worked, miraculously, and Eric again achieved remission status.

In 2009, L.I.F.E. became its own 501(c)(3) non-profit entity so that it could begin helping other patients directly.  Team L.I.F.E. was founded and consists of an entire team of people and athletes dedicated to racing and fundraising for the cause each year.

In 2010 after a large fundraising effort, L.I.F.E. and Mike managed a 3rd place finish in the Janus Charity Challenge at the Ironman Wisconsin.

Then on January 12, 2011 Eric's bone marrow biopsy returned positive.  Facing AML for the 4th time, he was given DLI (donor lymphocyte infusion) from his sister Lindsey to promote GvL effect.  The treatment worked and Eric entered remission again on May 4th, 2011.  On July 16th 2011, Eric was married to Cari Jaeger in Manitowoc, WI.

Then on July 27th, 2011, just one day after Eric and his new wife Cari returned from their honeymoon, they discovered his leukemia had returned.  For the next month he remained inpatient at Froedtert Hospital, and after receiving just 1 chemotherapy treatment, he achieved remission status for the 5th time on August 24, 2011.  Eric and Cari then moved into their new home in Port Washington, WI.  To help ensure a full recovery, Eric again received a 3rd stem cell transplant on November 16, 2011 from an anonymous donor in Europe.

Tragically, Eric officially relapsed for the 6th and 7th time on March 7, 2012 - one in his bone marrow, the other in his brain.  To combat the 7th relapse, he immediately underwent brain surgery so chemotherapy could be administered directly to his brain.  They also gave him a strong dose of radiation.  Remission was finally achieved a few months later.

On August 9th, 2012 Eric's leukemia returned again in the brain as an 8th relapse, or his 9th bout with cancer.  This time, however, the disease had taken too much of a toll, and he was sent home on hospice care.  Eric tragically passed away just 2 weeks later at the age of 28 on his brother Mike's birthday, August 23, 2012.  He posted a final farewell video that went viral to over 1 million viewers and can be seen here.

Eric's powerful story of hope and the will to survive has touched us more than words can describe. He has recorded his experiences extensively in his written and video journals, and each one has a positive message that everyone can learn from.  It is our mission to continue to support Eric's determination to live, by raising funds to promote cancer survivorship.  Through competing in Ironman triathlon competitions and the selfless giving of others, since 2003 L.I.F.E. has gone on to help hundreds of individuals by raising over $250,000 for patient financial assistance and research funding.

Thank you so much for all of your love, prayers, and support.
-The McLean Family

501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization


  • The reason that these years have been the best is that I think that I might have had a somewhat positive impact on your lives and perhaps your understanding of what cancer is and what it can do, to both those of us that it has personally attacked and those of us who know someone who is going through it. -Eric McLean
  • I just want children to be left with a better life than what I was left with," he said. "I want them to experience the feeling I had in my life when I realized that I really mattered.
    ~ Larry Hisle
  • Realistically, I have two more Olympic cycles in me. I'm not going to let this beat me.  I've gained a lot of strength from you guys, if Eric can fight 5 times over I can overcome this one year of setbacks.
    ~ Chris Solinsky
  • Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men. ~ Albert Einstein
  • Never, never, never give up.
    ~ Winston Churchill
  • I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me! ~ Dr. Seuss
  • Once you choose hope, anything's possible.
    ~ Christopher Reeve
  • If you're going through hell, keep going.
    ~ Winston Churchill