SW Florida Chapter Leadership History 

The Compassionate Friends of SWFL Chapter started "passing the torch of love" in 1982, even before there was a national organization. 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 said yes to carrying, 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 with all her love. Anne accepted the torch in 2006, and has since passed it to co-leaders; Patrick's beloved Mom and Dad, Chrissy & Mark Hutchison and Michael & Benjamin’s beloved mother, Linda Wallace who continues as the Chapter leader 2017.

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.

 Our chapter honors all the families that have served as leaders by placing a paver for each of them at The Golisano Children's Museum:


2017 SW Florida Chapter Leadership Team


2017 Chapter Leadership
Benjamin & Michael's beloved mother, Linda Wallace - Chapter Leader 2017:

I am Michael & 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 & encouraged by this this chapter & by National TCF.

Chapter Leader, The Hospitality Room Chair for the upcoming 2017 TCF National Conference, Facebook Sunrise & Sunset Administrator, Event Coordinator for Chapter calendar, Facilitator, Candle Lighting Committee member, & Newsletter Editor 
Previously: Chapter Co-Leader, Candle Lighting committee member

Mark's beloved father, Frank Daniher: 2016 - 2018 


2017 Chapter Steering Committee


Patrick's beloved father, Mark Hutchison:

I am Patrick’s Dad. I went to my first meeting only to support my wife. To my surprise I have found TCF was the best thing I could have done for myself after the loss of my son. We have a large number of Dads who attend our chapter and I find it helps to be able to talk to others who are going through a lot of the same things I am.

Boy's Night Out Coordinator & Steering Committee Member. 

      Previously: Co-Chapter Leader, Steering Committee Chair, Data Base Manager, 

Web Site creator and administrator, Button Maker, Virtual Walk to       Remember Co-Chair, &

Candle Lighting Committee member.

 Jennifer's beloved mother, Donna Langer
I am Jennifer’s Mom, Donna. My daughter Jennifer was 32 when she was having serious back issues that required several surgeries. Days after the last surgery, she passed away. I have been a member of this organization since Jennifer passed away in 2012. The Leader of a Chapter in North Carolina works for the same company as I do, so he told me about The Compassionate Friends. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate his advice. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for all the support I have received from my new friends here.

   Previously: Treasurer & Candle Lighting Committee member

Mark's beloved mother, Kit Daniher: 
Girls' Night Out Hostess & Loving Listener

Danny's beloved mother, Cathy Giampa


David's beloved mother & bonus father, Anne & Mauricio Arbelaez:



, Button Maker Team, Web Site Administrator, Facebook Moderator: Loss of Only/All Children

Hi, I’m David’s mother, Anne. I was blessed with David for 23 years, he passed in 2004. Since then, I was blessed to find this group. All of my Compassionate Friends keep me on my feet and participating.


               Previously: Advisory Board Chair, Virtual Walk to Remember Chair, Chapter Leader,

                                 Facebook Sunrise & Sunset Administrator, 

Newsletter Editor, Candle Lighting Chair, Mother's Day Chair

Mauricio:  Button Maker Team
                     Previously: Candle Lighting Committee Member, Mother's Day Chair, and chapter supporter
Jonathan's beloved mother, Margie Yurewitch
Picks up and delivers chapter mail.

Rylee & Xavier's beloved Mimi: 
Assists chapter where ever there is need.
                              Previously: Candle Lighting Committee member & All round Chapter supporter
Rylee & Xavier's beloved mother, Janet Congero: 
Walk to Remember Committee member & Candle Lighting Chair 
                              Previously: 2015 & 2016 Candle Lighting Chair and Committee member 

Shelli's beloved mother, Caren Plotkin: 
Community Outreach Chair, Girls' Night Out Hostess & Facilitator. 
Previously: Candle Lighting Committee member
2017 Chapter Support Groups: 

Thank you note extraordinaire & Poems for new families:


Chris' beloved mother, Alicia Mobley: 

Hi I’m Alicia, Christopher’s Mom. Christopher passed away 2009, at the age of 37. Finding The Compassionate Friends group has been a lifesaver for me.

Previously: Loving Listener & Candle Lighting Committee member


2017 "Phone a Compassionate Friend:

Need someone to talk to? We are not counselors but we do understand in a way others do not. These people have volunteered to be available to you. We have listed the ages of their children/sibling and the circumstances they have experienced.
You can call any of them as they are all Compassionate Friends

Mark Hutchison, 239-825-0230 son - Patrick, 19 years old, died from shot gun

Linda Merced, 239 848-2601 multiple loss2 sons - Christian J., 26 years old brain blood hemorrhage & James C. 2 1/2 years old, heart

Caren Plotkin 239-273-6106 daughter - Shelli 26 years old died from brain tumor

Frank Daniher 239-287-1559, son - Mark died at 47 as the result of medical errors made after heart surgery

Donna Goldstein 239-676-1825, son - Mark died at 28 from alcoholism

Marissa Zapatka 978-551-0684, sister - Amber died at 27 from a motorcycle accident