‘Wynne’s Warriors’: MIA's Key Club raise funds to help 3-year-old with rare disease

Lance Shearer

Marco Island Academy’s school year is over – a year like none of the students or teachers had ever seen and would be happy to never see again.

Along with the academic subjects they studied during the school year, members of the Key Club at Marco Island Academy learned something else – the value of helping others. In a time when most normal, in-person activities were not taking place, the school’s Key Club found a project they could take on to make an impact a thousand miles away, and perhaps around the globe.

The students were touched by the story of Wynne Lockwood, a three-year-old who lives outside Detroit with her family.

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Wynne, pronounced “Winnie,” had been suffering since birth with an undiagnosed illness, even though her mother, a nurse, had noticed troubling symptoms shortly after she was born.

“Wynne was not meeting her age-appropriate milestones. She didn’t walk, communicate or play like our older daughter,” said her father Matt Lockwood. “We had her enrolled in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy since she was just months old,” but none of it allowed her to thrive and progress.

After enduring years of frustration, and undergoing round after round of testing, the family finally got a diagnosis. Wynne has Kleefstra syndrome, a disease so rare it was only named in 2010 and has just 500 known diagnosed cases worldwide.

“Our doctors had never heard of it or seen a patient with it. It was both heartening to finally have an answer to what was causing her problems, but also devastating because we could no longer just keep hoping that things would click for Wynne and she would catch up to her peers,” said Matt.

The MIA Key Club students heard about Wynne because Marie Lynn McChesney, the mother of Maria Lockwood, Wynne’s mother and Matt’s wife, lives on Marco Island. Marie Lynn lives here with her husband Ray and serves as the Kiwanian advisor to the school’s Key Club.

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Nationally, Key Clubs are sponsored by the Kiwanis, and Marie Lynn is very proud of the accomplishments of the local club.

“We’re considered a platinum club. We win a lot of awards,” she said.

Although due to the pandemic lockdown, she was not allowed to visit the school campus as she normally would, McChesney passed on Wynne’s story to MIA humanities teacher Lori Galiana, who is the club’s faculty advisor.

“This senior class was just outstanding. They just charged in and took control,” said Galiana. The students made up and sold bracelets emblazoned with “Wynne’s Warriors,” which was the name they gave to the group helping raise funds to fight Kleefstra syndrome. They held a bake sale at the end of April, which would not have been possible earlier in the year to due to COVID restrictions.

Some of the students who took the lead in helping Wynne included vice president Casey Erickson, secretary Reese Jones, and Elle Richardson. The club’s co-presidents, Peter Morales and Joey Puell, won the MIA Faculty Award and Principal’s Award, respectively.

In addition to the senior club officers, Galiana extolled the contributions of Taylor Drott, who just completed her sophomore year and served as the club’s editor. With the direct connection through Marie Lynn McChesney, said Taylor, “it was really personal to us. We really wanted to help Mrs. McChesney’s granddaughter.”

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With the help of principal Melissa Scott, “the whole school got involved,” said Taylor. “I went around and shared Wynne’s story with everyone, and the response was incredible.”

With donations from school parents as well as students, Wynne’s Warriors raised $1,500 and sent it to the Lockwood family in Detroit. Matt and Maria Lockwood didn’t keep the money; they donated it to I Define, the organization working to support Kleefstra patients and searching for a cure.

“We are so appreciative of the students’ efforts and would love to see them recognized for their selfless actions on behalf of a little girl they’ve never met,” said Matt Lockwood. For those wanting to contribute or learn more about Kleefstra syndrome, go online to idefine.org.