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Project JKOS Knits Beanies for Those in Need
Three students holding cardboard boxes of candy.

When senior Ryan Horio, a self-taught knitter, presented his girlfriend with a beautiful scarf and beanie to celebrate their one-year anniversary, and then his friends with homemade beanies, their joyful reactions made him think, "Hey, I could really make some people happy with my knitting."

And so Project JKOS, a teen-led humanitarian organization, was born. Project JKOS is comprised of over two dozen students from five different high schools thanks to word-of-mouth and social media: JSerra, Santa Margarita, Aliso Niguel, Tesoro, and Laguna Beach.

Initially, Project JKOS (Just Keep on Swimming)'s goal was to help patients at local hospitals — specifically, children in critical care or who have chronic illnesses.

"We wanted to help children get through their traumatic experiences and give them the hope to keep moving on in life with a positive attitude instead of focusing on the negative," he explained.

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Project JKOS is no longer permitted to donate their handmade items to patients because of hospital safety precautions. They have since switched gears and now knit beanies and blankets and write thank you cards for healthcare workers. The JKOS team has also added shelters to their list of recipients, making masks, beanies, cards of encouragementand goodie bags for unhoused children and their families as well as cards of encouragement. Every item is handcrafted and they buy their own supplies.

Just last week alone, they donated 25 beanies, 150 cards, and 40 child masks to Laura's House, a local domestic violence shelter. Previously they have made similar deliveries to Mission Hospital, Saddleback Hospital, and Family Promise in Anaheim.

Project JKOS has been fundraising to buy fabric, yarn, and blanket materials to make more items through direct donations and setting up fundraisers with local businesses such as Ding Tea, Kripy Kreme, and Locca Churros + Tea. They also hope to add new volunteers to their team.

They are also collaborating with various JSerra service clubs and another JSerra student-founded group called the CARE Initiative. They plan to open volunteer opportunities to the Mission Hospital Volunteer Auxiliary.

As for Horio, in addition to knitting, he enjoys playing on the JSerra Varsity Boys Soccer team, taking classes in the Medical Magnet Program, and playing the viola (he is Student Director of the JSerra String Orchestra). His goal is to attend medical school and become a cardiologist, but in the meantime, he is happy overseeing the music program for the Mission Hospital Auxiliary Board, cooking, playing guitar, and drinking boba tea.

For more information on Project JKOS, follow them on Instagram.

Handknit beanies in blue, light pink, and green.