SW Florida Chapter Leadership History 

The Compassionate Friends of SWFL Chapter started "passing the torch of love" 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 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 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 finished their 2 year term; and Michael & Benjamin’s beloved mother, Linda Wallace who continues on with an amazing Steering Committee.

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.

 Patrick's Parent's Chrissy & Mark Hutchison, did hours of research and provided pavers to honor the past Chapter Leaders at The Golisano Children's Museum:


2022 SW Florida Chapter Leadership Team


Chapter Leadership
Linda Wallace - Chapter Leader (Benjamin & Michael's mother):

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 & 
South Florida Regional Cooridinator 
Dianne McWilliams - (Brian's mother)


Chapter Steering Committee

Donna Langer (Jennifer's mother, Steven's Sister)

Kit Daniher (Mark's mother)
Margie Yurewitch (Jonathan's mother)
June Congero (Rylee & Xavier's beloved Mimi, Frank Rahilly's sister)
Janet Congero (Rylee & Xavier's mother)
 Dianne McWilliams (Brian's mother)
Tracy Milne Edgemon (Andrew's sister)
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 gun shot

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

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