About Us

The Compassionate Friends

Our Chapter is part of the larger National Organization. The Compassionate Friends was founded 50 years ago when a chaplain at the Warwickshire Hospital in England brought together two sets of grieving parents and realized that the support they gave each other was better than anything he, as a chaplain, could ever say or provide. Meeting around a kitchen table, the Lawleys and the Hendersons were joined by a bereaved mother and the chaplain, Simon Stephens, and The Society of the Compassionate Friends was born. The Compassionate Friends jumped across the ocean and was established in the United States and incorporated in 1978 in Illinois.

Today TCF has over 600 chapters serving all 50 states plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, that offer friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members during the natural grieving process after a child has died. Around the world more than 30 countries have a Compassionate Friends presence, encircling the globe with support so desperately needed when the worst has happened.


The mission of The Compassionate Friends: When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family.

Southwest Florida Chapter

Our Southwest Florida Chapter offers support to over 300 families in Collier and Lee counties and to families in other states through Zoom and other online tools. There are no fees or costs to the families. We provide peer to peer support in a safe place for families who have experienced the death of a child, sibling or grandchild.  We are funded by our generous donors and through special events. Each month our committed volunteers who also have experinced loss facilitate our meetings and are there via phone or online to help every bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent who attend our meetings or contact us.

Chapter Leadership History

The Compassionate Friends of SWFL Chapter began in 1982. Through the loss of their precious son, John T. lll in 1978, Mary & Woody Loughray began reaching out to local families suffering the loss of a child. Their friendship, understanding, and hope spurred lifelong friendships steeped in love & support.

Mary & Woody passed their torch of love to Elizabeth Lake sometime after her precious daughter Tanya passed in 1990. Elizabeth was supported by Mark’s beloved parents, Shirley and John Cooledge, who joined the group in 1996 and who continued to provide the punch at our Candle Lighting event annually for many years. 

Terese Walker picked up the torch after losing her precious son, Collin. She, Collin’s sisters, and a core group of dedicated, loving, passionate families infused their support to new families for many years. In 2004, Terese welcomed David’s mother, Anne Arbelaez, into the group. Anne was next to pick up torch in 2006, and with vigorous energy led the group through 2014. 

January of 2015 brought new co-leaders; Patrick’s beloved Mom and Dad, Chrissy & Mark Hutchison, who served for 2 years working tirelessly and updating many tools, forms, and including our contact database; and Michael & Benjamin’s mother, Linda Wallace who continues leading with a host of volunteers.

Through friendship, understanding, and hope provided by The Compassionate Friends of SWFL, family, friends, co-workers, and our community are able to survive this most terrible of nightmares.

Linda Wallace – Chapter Leader (Benjamin & Michael’s mother): I am Michael and Benjamin’s Mom. My husband Ben & I have 4 children. Our 2nd child Michael died 11 hours after he was born in 1985 and our oldest child Benjamin died in 2011, at the age of 30. We along with their sisters, Amanda & Annie, miss them every day. We came to TCF in 2011, and have been supported, loved and encouraged by this this chapter and by National TCF.

Chapter Leader & South Florida Regional Coordinator

Treasurer: Dianne McWilliams – (Brian’s mother)


Chapter Steering Committee

  • Donna Langer (Jennifer’s mother, Steven’s Sister)
  • Margie Yurewitch (Jonathan’s mother)
  • Janet Congero (Rylee & Xavier’s mother)
  • Dianne McWilliams (Brian’s mother)
  • Tracy Milne Edgemon (Andrew’s sister)
  • Allen and Tammy Wickell (Zachary’s parents)