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Final Four brings smiles, sense of connection for mom of fallen UNC mascot Jason Ray

Jason Ray, her son and at the time UNC’s mascot, was hit and killed by a driver while walking in New Jersey. That was March 2007 during the Tar Heels journey in the tournament.
Jason Ray, at the time UNC’s mascot, was hit and killed by a driver while walking in New Jersey.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 10:51 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Saturday night, Charlotte Ray will be watching the Final Four.

It’s a rivalry unlike any other.

Duke versus University of North Carolina. Blue Devils and Tar Heels.

But for Charlotte Ray, her reason for watching is personal.

Jason Ray, her son and at the time UNC’s mascot, was hit and killed by a driver while walking in New Jersey. That was March 2007 during the Tar Heels journey in the tournament.

“He had a heart of gold and wonderful personality,” Charlotte Ray said.

Watching her son, she says, was her pride and joy.

“Nobody is supposed to know who Rameses is. I told everybody and Jason would get so upset with me,” she said. “He would say, ‘mother you’re not supposed to tell anybody.” But, I was so proud of him.”

Over a decade later, there is still a connection to Rameses -- no matter who is wearing the costume.

It’s one, she says, helps her feel Jason’s presence. As she watches the game Saturday night, she says a lot will be on her mind.

“How Jason would be, how he would be so excited. You’d see that Rameses just going up and down. Just cheering. That’s what I think every time. I’ll look over for the Rameses and see where he’s at,” she said.

“That brings you smiles? WBTV asked.

“It does bring me smiles,” she replied.

Jason Ray’s wish was to be an organ donor. A red heart proudly displayed on his license. Charlotte Ray remembers their exact conversation.

“He said I’m not telling you I want to die, I’m telling you that if anything happens to me and you can’t save me, do not bury me with anything that would help someone else,” she said.

Following his death, that wish became a reality. The Jason Kendall Ray Foundation was also founded in 2007 raising awareness about organ donation.

In 2016, UNC Hospitals changed the name of its transplant clinic to UNC Hospitals Jason Ray Transplant Clinic

As fans cheer on the Tar Heels across the country, perhaps its biggest fan will be cheering from above.

“I’d say there is not a day that goes by I don’t think about something he said or done. Or something that is going on, just like this ball game coming up. He would definitely be for Carolina,” Charlotte Ray said.

Through the foundation, $750,000 has been raised out of a $1 million goal. The annual golf tournament is planned for June 27 at Irish Creek in Kannapolis.

There will also be a dinner and auction in September.

For both events, sponsorship opportunities are still available.

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