A BLAST 4 Kids Basketball Story Just in Time for March Madness

Local nonprofit partner BLAST 4 Kids is helping transform the lives of kids in San Diego and the director coaches a basketball team that teaches underprivileged children about teamwork and boosts their confidence.

In 2022 U4O began partnering with BLAST, an after-school program for underprivileged children in grades K-5 in San Diego. Along with giving kids a place to belong and receive tutoring, the dedicated volunteers and staff also provide mentorship. Ryan Najimy serves as BLAST’s director and has also coached club basketball for 12-year-old boys for the past seven years, and each season boys from BLAST are given the opportunity to play on the team.

Basketball Provides an Outreach to Boys Who Lack Positive Role Models


Poverty affects an estimated 9 million children in the US with 1 in 4 kids living in homes without father figures. This not only means that single mothers often work two jobs, but also creates an epidemic of children lacking healthy male role models. To some of the kids enrolled in the BLAST program, this kind of support takes shape in the form of being part of a club basketball team.

Sports in urban, impoverished communities are often a child’s way out of poverty. Ryan has stepped in as a trusted adult through the relationships that he’s built with the kids to serve as coach. When you support U4O you’re helping partner with BLAST to help make these things happen.
–Caitlin Snyder, Engagement Director

San Diego Club Basketball Team Gives Underprivileged Kids a Sense of Belonging


BLAST Program Director Ryan proudly reports that the boys on this year’s team won both the Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments in 2023 and have won the championships for the past six out of seven years, feats that strengthen bonds between the boys and increase their self-esteem. Through membership on the basketball team 12-year-old boys have a place to belong, learn their worth, and receive mentorship that is lacking in their home lives.

Basketball helps kids learn responsibility, teamwork, and dedication. It gets them off the streets and focused on things that are good for them. The environment helps them learn skills to overcome challenges and build friendships. Growing up, sports were a huge part of my life, so being able to pass that on is a game-changer for me.
–Ryan, BLAST Program Director and Volunteer Basketball Coach

One of this year’s players is a boy whose father recently left their family. He and his younger brother attend the BLAST after-school program, and through his position on the basketball team, he’s able to help fill the space left by an absent father with consistent male role models.

BLAST 4 Kids Program Helps Instill Confidence in Elementary Students


Education is prioritized in the BLAST program, and Coach Ryan insists that all basketball players keep their grades up, a huge motivator for the boys on the team. U4O’s belief that education is the way to break cycles of poverty aligns with BLAST, and we’re proud to come alongside an organization that is changing lives for underprivileged children in San Diego.

Ryan is like a father figure and an elder brother who helps these kids experience some normalcy in their lives. He knows every boy’s story and it’s awesome to partner with somebody who’s truly called to embed himself in an area where most people wouldn’t want to work.
–Joe Brandi, Founder & Mission Director

As March Madness ensues, consider coming alongside young athletes through the BLAST program and invest in their education and mentorship. We believe that through this program children will have a better chance to succeed in school and attend college one day, setting them up to become more dedicated, disciplined adults who will flourish in their careers and families.

Give to Vulnerable Children

Receive news from U4O!