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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

JSerra Catholic High School senior Ryan Horio founded Project Just Keep on Swimming (JKOS) in March 2020 to help make beanies, blankets, masks, and cards that go to local domestic-abuse/homeless shelters and hospitals.

Project JKOS started off with three members—Horio, Atisha Phetbenjakul and Josh Chang—and has grown to include more than 40 general members across 11 different schools in the local area. Horio was motivated to start the group in December 2019 after he had knitted beanies for his girlfriend and friends, and saw how happy it made them.

“Our name, Project Just Keep on Swimming, resembles the phrase ‘Just Keep Swimming’ from Dory in Finding Nemo,” Horio said. “This phrase not only appeals to the children in our community, but it also stands to encourage these children to fight and persevere through whatever struggles they may be going through.”

Project Just Keep on Swimming member Boyi Wang donates items to Catholic Charities. Los Angeles. Photo: Ian Novales.

Community Outreach Chair Boyi Wang said it is their responsibility to help those in need, as members of the community.

“Being able to work with other teenagers who have the same beliefs and passions makes my life fulfilled,” Wang said.

Since June 2020, Project JKOS has donated 2,005 seasonal (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) and “get well soon” cards, 171 blankets, 117 child masks, and 140 beanies. The organization has partnered with various other groups such as Girls with Goals, Tesoro High School’s National Honors Society, and Mission Hospital Volunteer Auxiliary—among others—that have donated the homemade items needed. They also deliver monthly items to several beneficiaries, including Catholic Charities of Los Angeles.

Following the Waves of Warmth and Cheer holiday drive in collaboration with Tesoro Key Club and Mission Hospital Auxiliary, Project JKOS was able to donate 100 blankets to Mission Hospital’s Family Resource center. Photo: Sunna Mai.

“During Halloween, we made 250 candied bags for JSerra Catholic High School’s Trunk-or-Treak event for local middle and elementary schoolers since the pandemic prevented them from trick-or-treating,” Horio said.

Erik Wieboldt, Director of Community Outreach, said he has grown in his community involvement and helped other counties through Project JKOS.

“We have grown so close … as a team, and our relationship with our outreach programs is just as gratifying,” Wieboldt said. “I’m so glad to be part of this group that I know will grow just as fast as our passion for outreach is!”

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com

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