Wendy Hocking (Chair)

Wendy’s first grandchild, William, was diagnosed with Kleefstra Syndrome just after his first birthday in 2014 and remembers the early days of his diagnosis well. She first heard of the Charity through Williams parents, Paul, and Emma, as they found the information and support from the Charity invaluable.  They attended both the 2015 and 2018 Conference and even managed to speak to Dr Kleefstra herself. They enjoyed the opportunity to meet other children and families in the same position as them and told Wendy all about it.
Wendy has Chief Executive experience in managing Charities, supporting people in need, such as homeless people and vulnerable families, and found by chance that the founder members, Chris, and Fiona were stepping back from their Chair and Trustee roles to concentrate more on their family. She immediately expressed an interest in supporting the Charity, to bring her expertise and passion of supporting families to help continue the fantastic work that Chris and Fiona have done to develop the website and support network.
She aims to use her connections and knowledge to ensure the families have access to relevant information, helpful support links, the latest medical updates, and the opportunity to meet other families with children and young people diagnosed with Kleefstra Syndrome.

Vito Berzanskis (Treasurer)

Vito is the father of three boys, of whom the youngest, Freddie, was diagnosed with Kleefstra syndrome at the age of seven months. He found the compassion, help, understanding and information about Kleefstra he received from kleefstrasyndrome.org invaluable and as such, believes strongly in being able to give back. Originally from Lithuania, Vito has lived in Derbyshire for the past 20 years, qualifying as a solicitor in 2011 and is currently a director of an Agricultural Law Practice in Derbyshire. He is confident that the skills and experience gained within this role will be useful in helping families in the same way that the charity has helped his, and in raising awareness of Kleefstra Syndrome.

Anna Gibbs (Secretary)

Anna is the mom of Hunter (6) and Hazel (2). Hunter was diagnosed with Kleefstra Syndrome at 4 weeks old. He was born with a congenital heart defect, which prompted the early genetic testing.
Anna remembers the early days, feeling lost and scared for the future. Being a first-time mom, the early diagnosis was simply overwhelming. Making contact with other families that had gone through similar was the best support she could have hoped for. Feeling understood and having other parents tell you “you will be fine” and “you are not alone” helped getting through the tough first year.
Six years later Anna is excited the get involved with the Charity and help other parents to navigate a life with Kleefstra and tell families that “they will be fine”, because they will.

Jo Merry (Trustee)

Jo has three wonderful children with her youngest Matthew having been diagnosed with Kleefstra syndrome in February 2020. It was clear from the beginning that something was different with Matthew and even after the relief of an official diagnosis there remained many unanswered questions. The hospital consultant was limited in his answers to the family, simply due to the lack of information available and the small number of diagnosed persons within the United Kingdom. The meeting ending with a leaflet being handed over which had simply been printed from the Internet with further advice to seek out other families online for more support.

On the journey home from the hospital, Jo sought answers online in the hope to connect with anyone who had experience of Kleefstra syndrome. She found Kleefstrasyndrome.org and immediately messaged Fiona and Chris. From the outset they were able to put her mind at ease and quickly defused the increasing worry, helping her family to feel less alone. Jo has found the online community is a great resource for questions and answers and has provided the opportunity to learn and comprehend more about what a life with Kleefstra syndrome is about, not only for Matthew, but his surrounding family as he continues on his journey through life. She is passionate about helping anyone who finds themselves in a similar position that their family once was, whilst also promoting and creating awareness of the syndrome and to strive and help others on their unique journey through experience and advice.

Jane du Plooy (Trustee)

Jane has two daughters, Ella and Cleo. In early 2015, Ella (then aged 2) was diagnosed with an intragenic EHMT1 mutation. Shortly after that, with a background in digital marketing Jane was happy to help when Kleefstrasyndrome.org first set up their Twitter account. She has progressively become more involved in the charity’s work and is passionate about spreading the word and giving strength and support to people affected by Kleefstra syndrome.

Chris Heslehurst (Trustee)

Chris Heslehurst is the proud father to Leah and Lucas. Leah was born in 2006 and diagnosed in 2007 with KS or 9q34.3 deletion syndrome (as it was known then). At the time it was thought that Leah was the 35th individual in the world to be identified with the syndrome. When receiving the diagnosis Chris and his family took to the internet in search of answers and at that time there was little information available. What they did find was difficult to understand and very negative. In 2009, Chris and his wife Fiona began a project to change this by bringing together a small community of families. Later they developed the website and finally in 2017 they both founded the Kleefstrasyndrome.org charity.
Fiona stepped down from the charity in 2021, 12 years after starting the project. Chris continues on as a trustee after also stepping down from the Chair position in 2021.

Page updated: 01-12-2021