The tale of the turkey bag
A black and white historical photo shows a man busily working at his office desk.
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The holidays are quickly approaching, and I know many of you are looking forward to gathering with loved ones for caroling, games and of course, turkey dinner. 

Although turkey dinner isn’t a tradition in my family (I eat what turkeys eat, grass and grains), after hearing a recent story shared by the Jenkyns family, any mention of turkey dinner will forever remind me of Art Jenkyns, the founder of Operation Eyesight.

Not only did Art cherish the holidays, but being the resourceful scout that he was, he loved a good turkey bag.

Back in the 1960s, Art, his wife, Una, their five children – Arleigh, Bill, Jim, Linda and Tom – and the family dog, Cookie, would pile into their Chevy sedan and set out for a three-week camping adventure in the mountains. With space being limited, Art ensured that everything was well-organized and nicely packed in the trunk or under a canvas cover on the car’s rooftop. Each child was given one bag to pack their belongings in – and, you guessed it, it was a turkey bag. 

“These camping trips are some of our fondest memories,” say the Jenkyns children, now parents and grandparents themselves. “Dad was an incredible leader, whether it was organizing our campsite and teaching us how to set up our 9×9 tent or running Operation Eyesight and inspiring others to support a cause that was so close to his heart.” 

While he kept very busy with his ‘day job’ at a local insurance broker and his ‘evening job’ doing work for Operation Eyesight, Art always made time for his family and friends. He was the kind of man who took genuine interest in others. When he spoke to you, it was as if you were the only person in the room. Even today, our supporters speak warmly of the time they met Art when he made a presentation to their church or club. They might have only had a few minutes with Art, but the impression he made and the passion he ignited in them has lasted a lifetime. 

A historical black and white photo shows a man at the bedside of a child patient in a hospital room, surrounded by medical staff.
Art in the children’s ward at Arogyavaram Hospital in Sompeta, India. This was the first hospital to receive support from Operation Eyesight, and it continues to provide quality eye care for patients even today.

I never had the privilege of meeting Art but, having seen the impact of his legacy firsthand from South Asia to sub-Saharan Africa to Canada and beyond, I can say that he was truly a visionary. He was committed to providing quality eye health services to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances, and he was dedicated to finding local solutions to local problems, promoting the goal of sustainable development. The fact the Operation Eyesight will soon be celebrating its 60th anniversary proves this.  

The facilities that Operation Eyesight helped to establish during Art’s lifetime continue to deliver critical services today. Whenever I visit our old partner hospitals, I am filled with a sense of gratitude toward Art. I see his photo proudly displayed on waiting room walls, and retired physicians share many wonderful stories with me.   

The Jenkyns children say that Art never imagined that, nearly six decades later, the organization he founded would still be in existence. Yet today, Operation Eyesight is the biggest and most impactful it has ever been. Art’s legacy lives on with every pair of eyeglasses given to a child, with every cataract surgery provided to a parent or grandparent, and with every supporter who reminisces about the time they met an incredible man named Art Jenkyns. 

Thank you to our donors and partners who brought Art’s vision to life all those years ago, and to those who continue to carry out his legacy today – For All The World To See.  

Best wishes for a joyful, healthy holiday season. And if you’ll be enjoying a turkey dinner this year, I hope the turkey bag reminds you of Art, his legacy and the life-changing impact of your generosity. 

Two years ago, as a tribute to Art and Una, the Jenkyns family rekindled the Art and Una Jenkyns Legacy Fund, which will be used to create an endowment fund that will continue the Jenkyns legacy for years to come. Those interested can contribute to the Fund here