An Innovative Champion for Kids of All Abilities

September 2020

Tom Jeary, retired air force pilot and mechanical engineer loves to solve problems. It turns out, children have benefited the most from his innovative thinking and writing. 

For nearly five decades, Tom has helped hundreds of children and youth who may have struggled to achieve greater independence through his customized devices, aids and adaptations. Photo of BookAs a 30-year volunteer with KidsAbility, he turns his time, talents and heart of gold into adapting everyday devices so kids can fish, use a camera, operate a remote, ride a bike, or tie their own shoelaces.

But engineering isn’t Tom’s only skill. His passion for photography, a shy resident chipmunk affectionately named Chester, and some handmade miniature props were turned into a self-published children’s book.

The Chipmunk Fall Fair follows Chester on a backyard adventure shooting some hoops, lifting some weights and balancing on a tight wire to show that he’s capable of doing anything he puts his mind to – much like the children Tom has helped along the way.

photo of Tom and Nancy Jeary

A gentle man with an altruistic spirit, Tom is well known to many in Waterloo and beyond the region. Throughout the past 40 plus years he’s been recognized as Rotarian of the Year and Waterloo’s Citizen of the Year, and has received the national King Clancy and Governor General’s Caring Canadian Awards for enhancing the lives of persons with disabilities.

Most recently, Tom and his wife, Nancy, were honoured with the Elaine Ormston Outstanding Supporter Butterfly Award—the highest honour bestowed by KidsAbility Foundation annually.

The Jeary's continue to exemplify leadership in their philanthropic legacy, building a lasting and remarkable impact on the lives of children and youth and their families.