Remembering Art Jenkyns: A dedicated father, and the founder of Operation Eyesight

Photo of Art Jenkyns talking to a senior women who went through an eye surgery.
Written by Ashley Anderson Donate Today

This June, Operation Eyesight celebrates 58 years of our sight-saving work. In recognition of this milestone, and with Father’s Day coming up soon, I connected with Linda Jenkyns Matuska and Jim Jenkyns, children of our founder Art Jenkyns, to reflect on Operation Eyesight’s humble beginnings and the incredible man who started it all.  

In 1963, Art heard Dr. Ben Gullison speak in Calgary. Dr. Gullison was a Canadian doctor working in Sompeta, India to help those who were blind or visually impaired. Inspired to help Dr. Gullison’s cause, Art held a fundraising dinner in Calgary in June of 1963, with the help of members from his local church. That dinner raised $840 and served as the beginning of Operation Eyesight. Over the years, Art became a tireless champion for blindness prevention and treatment, speaking at countless events across Canada to raise financial support for the organization.

His children remember their father’s passion and dedication to providing eye health care for all. In the formative years of Operation Eyesight, Art had two desks in his home office – one for his day job at a local insurance broker and one for Operation Eyesight. At the end of his regular work day, Art would move to the second desk and work on Operation Eyesight projects well into the evening. Una Jenkyns, Art’s wife, was also very involved with Operation Eyesight and she did most of the typing and tax receipting in the early years as a volunteer.

Art Jenkyns, founder of Operation Eyesight

Parents to five children, Art and Una were very busy, but family was always their top priority. Every year, the family of seven would embark on a three-week camping holiday, never staying overnight in the same place. These family trips were always educational experiences for the children and serve as some of their most cherished memories. In later years, Art would incorporate opportunities along their route to share Operation Eyesight’s work with various groups and organizations across the country.

“He would just speak to anybody and everybody about Operation Eyesight’s vision,” says Jim. “Our dad was a wonderful speaker. His enthusiasm was infectious and the excitement he created in other people was just amazing.”

Growing up, the Jenkyns Family was shaped by their commitment to service towards others. Art was avidly involved with the Scouts for 60 years, and Una volunteered frequently at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. In turn, this instilled a strong sense of service towards others in their children.

Art and Una Jenkyns visiting and eye unit in Sundrani, India in 1979

In honour of their parents, the Jenkyns Family has started The Art and Una Jenkyns Legacy Fund to carry on their parent’s legacy and continue their vision of a world where everyone has access to quality eye health care.

“Our dad never, ever expected that the organization would grow like it grew,” says Linda. “Of course, we are all so proud of Operation Eyesight today. Dad used to say, that you can’t change the world, but you can change some people’s world. That principle was at the root of his service to others and is what continues to inspire us all today.”

If you would like to support The Art and Una Jenkyns Legacy Fund and help change someone’s world, click here to learn more.