By Michelle Lewis

Life…The Ultimate Gift

By Michelle Lewis Posted April 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

Jason Ray was full of life. This was evident as his amazing energy transformed a simple costume into a jumping, pumping, running Rameses that made Carolina crowds cheer, wave, and shout.  But Jason’s life was cut short when he died in a hit-and-run accident while at the NCAA Basketball Regionals in March 2007.  That did not stop Jason, though, from accomplishing his goal of sharing his energy, his optimism, and his love of life with others.  Jason was an organ donor.

Jason’s organs have helped over 50 people with the gift of life.  Jason’s friends, family, and UNC fans know, though, that Jason would have wanted to do more.  So they are working to raise over $1 million for the UNC Center for Transplant Care.     Donations will be used to benefit patients who have undergone solid organ transplantation at UNC Hospitals.  When the $1 million goal is reached, the Clinic at the Center for Transplant Care will be renamed in Jason’s honor.

You can help. This Sunday (April 29th), the Jason Ray Foundation is hosting a fundraising brunch and auction at The Carolina Club, featuring terrific food, music by The Clef Hangers, UNC Cheerleaders, emcee Ron Stutts and, of course, Rameses. 

The keynote speaker for the event is UNC Women’s Soccer Coach Anson Dorrance.  Jason’s parents, as well as Dale Folwell, Speaker Pro Tempore of the North Carolina House of Representatives, also will speak at the event.  Rep. Folwell sponsored NC House Bill 1372, The Heart Prevails Act, which allows an individual to indicate on his/her driver’s license that he/she is an organ donor. Rep. Folwell and his wife lost their seven-year-old son, Dalton, in 1999 and allowed him to be an organ donor.

Reading about Jason, and how he touched people during his short life, is inspirational.  Here is an excerpt from the Jason Ray Foundation’s website:

Jason was in many ways larger than life.  Not only was he 6’5” with a personality to match, he was dedicated to helping others.  When he was 13 he went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico, followed by Haiti and Honduras, to help at orphanages. By the time he was 21, he’d been on three mission trips and was dedicated to helping those less fortunate.  He loved life and he loved his family and friends.  You could feel it when you were around him.

When Jason got his driver’s license, he checked the box to be an organ donor.  When he went home, he told his mom that he wanted to help others in case something ever happened to him.  When that terrible event happened, his family knew his wishes and honored them by donating Jason’s organs and tissues to The Sharing Network of New Jersey.

NC Men’s Basketball Coach Roy Williams has added his voice to the chorus of Jason’s admirers, saying in a recent video promoting the foundation’s $1 million goal, “I hope everyone will be able to be involved and help . . . . Together, we are Carolina.”

Tickets for the brunch ($100 per person) can be purchased by contacting Kimberly James, Jason Ray Foundation Development Officer, at 919-428-8538.  Those who would like to give but are unable to attend the brunch may make a donation to the Foundation at http://jasonray.org/.

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