About Us

Our Mission

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

Our History

The Compassionate Friends was founded in 1969, in Coventry, England. In a hospital in England, two children died - one from a biking accident and the other from cancer. The two sets of grieving parents (the Lawleys and the Hendersons) became connected through the deaths of their beloved children. It was Chaplin Simon Stephens who brought together the two sets of grieving parents, when he observed that the support they gave to each other was far better than any he could provide. These two families were later joined by other bereaved parents, and began meeting together. This small group along with Chaplain Simon Stephens later formed The Society of the Compassionate Friends.

Ten years later (1970) The Compassionate Friends migrated across the ocean to the United States. The Shamres, in Florida picked up the Compassionate Friends’ mantle in this country in Fall, 1972, following the death of their daughter, Paula. The organization was incorporated in 1978 in Illinois.

In 2009, forty years later, there were more than 625 chapters in every state in the US, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

TCF comes to Washington, DC

The District of Columbia Chapter of the Compassionate Friends was founded in 1999 by Coralease Ruff. She was still struggling with the untimely death of her beloved daughter, Kandy, and was appalled to learn that there was no TCF chapter in the nation’s capitol. She began to explore how she could help bring this valuable resource to Washington. In discussions with the Regional Coordinators, Mary and John Bell (also chapter leaders of Arlington chapter), she learned she had to have a meeting place and a cadre of bereaved parents and siblings to serve on the steering committee.

The idea of a bereavement support group was supported by Dr. Bernard Richardson, Dean of the Chapel at Howard University (also a bereaved sibling). He not only supported the idea of the group, he also permitted regular monthly meetings in the lower lounge of the Rankin Chapel. After identifying one bereaved parent in DC, one from Virginia, and two other prospects, the National Office granted approval to D. C. to affiliate as a satellite of the Arlington (Virginia) Chapter, in 1999. This initiative was supported by the Regional coordinators, John and Mary Bell, who attended steering committee and chapter meetings periodically. They also provide support in many ways, including a small chapter grant to assist with chapter expenses.

One year later, Coralease’s dream became a reality, and the new Washington, District of Columbia Chapter, was formed. In the early days, the new chapter had four new members, three of whom had the first name of Barbara. They were Barbara Brown, Barbara Parker, and Barbara and Thurmond Inabinet. In 2000, the Washington, District of Columbia Chapter was chartered as an official TCF chapter.

The chapter has continued to grow and prosper under the leadership of the following chapter leaders: Coralease Ruff, Barbara Phillips, Jean Pierce, the late  Olivia Gunter and currently Beverly Hill and Benita Tutt.

Highlights of D. C. Chapter activities/milestones

1999: D. C. named satellite chapter of Arlington Chapter
1999: First Candle lighting ceremony held
2000: Official opening (received Chapter charter) and held first Open House
2001: Participated in TCF National Conference in Crystal City, VA
2002: First Balloon Launch held
2002: Approved by CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) for fundraising
2003: First Annual Memorial Walk held
2003: Former chapter leader elected to serve on TCF National Board of Directors
2005: Chapter began supporting members for National Conference attendance (Boston)
2010: Chapter Founder and former chapter leader, C. Ruff, receives Recognition Award from TCF, Inc. for service at a national level.
2010: Chapter recognized by National for 10 years of service
2010: Chapter website developed

The Compassionate Friends Credo

We need not walk alone. We are The Compassionate Friends. We reach out to each other with love, with understanding, and with hope. The children we mourn have died at all ages and from many different causes, but our love for them unites us. Your pain becomes my pain, just as your hope becomes my hope. We come together from all walks of life, from many different circumstances. We are a unique family because we represent many races, creeds, and relationships. We are young, and we are old. Some of us are far along in our grief, but others still feel a grief so fresh and so intensely painful that they feel helpless and see no hope. Some of us have found our faith to be a source of strength, while some of us are struggling to find answers. Some of us are angry, filled with guilt or in deep depression, while others radiate an inner peace. But whatever pain we bring to this gathering of The Compassionate Friends, it is pain we will share, just as we share with each other our love for the children who have died. We are all seeking and struggling to build a future for ourselves, but we are committed to building a future together. We reach out to each other in love to share the pain as well as the joy, share the anger as well as the peace, share the faith as well as the doubts, and help each other to grieve as well as to grow. We Need Not Walk Alone. We Are The Compassionate Friends.

©2007 The Compassionate Friends

Butterfly Pictures Taken by Ron & Janice Haynes

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