The Gift of Life: Remembering Jason Ray of UNC

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst INovember 19, 2008

The picture above means something very special to me. The black tape on Rameses' arm is for Jason Ray, the UNC mascot who died in New Jersey after being hit by a car on the side of the road. It occurred during the NCAA tournament last March, as many of you may remember.

Legal issues still swirl around the case.  Nearly a year after the accident, two men were charged in the case. The man driving the SUV that hit Ray was driving on a suspended license; his father was also charged with hindering apprehension by providing false information to authorities, since he claimed that he had been the one driving, not his son.

I did not know Jason Ray very well, though he was in my graduating class at the University of North Carolina. I did know what a funny guy he was rumored to be and how much he enjoyed putting on the "smelly ram's head" and cavorting with the kids especially. He was smart and good-humored, and he was honored to hold the title of "Rameses."

Even after death, Jason was indeed a "Ray of Hope"; he saved lives due to being an organ donor. His organs and tissues positively affected the lives of over 50 people. Some may recall the ESPN story about an emotional and dramatic reunion between the donor family (the Rays) and many of the recipients. In case you are interested, here is a link.

Jason and his family are a personal inspiration and an inspiration to many of the people I work with. He is a reminder to us all of how insignificant the score of a game is compared to the people who are playing and supporting the game.

I mostly wanted to write this article to remember Jason and to remember his gift as another UNC basketball season begins. His story made me rethink my perspectives on organ donation; perhaps it may cause you to rethink yours once you read the miraculous stories of those that were helped. Even if you're already an organ donor, it's worth the read.

Here at UNC, we miss you Jason. But we are thankful that you live on in so many ways and are grateful for all that you gave, even in death.