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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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COMPASS TO CARE. (THE MIKE AND SANDY ERNDSORFF CHILDHOOD CANCER FOUNDATION). Dubuque native Michelle Ernsdorff was fourteen months old in 1974 when doctors diagnosed a Wilm's tumor, a type of kidney cancer that primarily afflicts children. That diagnosis began 17 years of medical-related, out-of-town travel. While her parents, Mike and Sandy Ernsdorff, struggled to pay for travel costs related to treatment, Ernsdorff relied on her sister, Dina, to provide childhood companionship en route to hospitals.

Following a successful career in health care and after creating the marketing department of a pharmaceutical company, Ernsdorff created Compass to Care, The Mike & Sandy Ernsdorff Childhood Cancer Foundation, in 2010. Named for Ernsdorff's parents, Compass to Care provides resources for children to travel for cancer care.

"We have brought on 15 families that we're helping with travel," Ernsdorff said. More than half of these children and their parents drive to major medical centers for their care, while a third must fly out of state.

Fundraising proceeds provide the money to help the families. In 2011, a new fundraising tool was used help offset the travel costs of families of children with cancer. Ernsdorff received a grant from Chicago's Speh Family Foundation to produce more than 3,000 Dina Dolls. Compass to Care sold the toys with all the proceeds benefiting cancer travel costs. Ernsdorff named the dolls after her sister, who now lives in Atlanta. The sale of the $20 dolls could fund more than 200 trips to cancer treatment centers.



Hogstrom, Erik. "Instead of Lifelike, These Dolls are Meant to be Lifesavers," Telegraph Herald, Nov. 28, 2011