by MICHELLE BOUDIN / NewsChannel 36
CONCORD, N.C. --When North Carolina plays in the Sweet 16 Friday night there will be some special people in the audience.
You may remember their mascot, who was from Concord, died back in 2007 while the team played in New Jersey during March Madness. Jason Ray became an organ donor and two of the recipients will be at the game in his honor.
His mom Charlotte Ray stood over a pile of scrapbooks Friday afternoon and showed us some of the cards people sent when Jason died.
“Every once in awhile I’ll wanna get them out and look at them and there’s sometimes I just can’t,” she said.
She has 19 scrapbooks filled with sympathy cards. Many from people she and her husband didn’t even know, but who were impacted by their son.
Jason Ray was Rameses, the Chapel Hill mascot.
His dad Emmitt said, “It was everything to him, got his heart set on it and when Jason made up his mind it was a done deal. He loved being a mascot.”
The 21-year-old had travelled with his beloved team to Newark, New Jersey back in 2007 during March Madness. He was hit by a car and was left brain dead.
His mom said, “God had a plan and when I get there when I wanna ask him please tell me what that plan was that I couldn't have kept him.”
She says she understands now a part of that plan. Jason was an organ donor. In death he helped more than 50 people.
“It just proves what an unselfish young man he was really, there is no greater gift than giving somebody an organ,” his dad said.
Antwon Hunter, 20, has Jason's kidney.
“I received a call from my mother - she called me in tears, crying. That they had received a kidney for me,” he said.
Hunter lives in New Jersey where the accident happened and where the Tarheels are now back for March Madness for the first time since Jason's tragic death.
Charlotte Ray said, “ I thought oh, good, maybe they'll remember Jason and say something about him in some way. I never want him to be forgotten just never, never forget him.”
Hunter will be at the game, so will the man who got Jason's heart.
“I have to root for them all the time because Jason ray was their mascot and he had so much energy,” Hunter said.
“That’s what we’re all about. We don't have Jason anymore, we have his legacy and Jason was something to talk about...his compassion for people, his love of God - he was just a cool dude.”
Jason Ray's family has started a scholarship in his honor and they are helping to build a new wing dedicated to organ donation at the Chapel Hill hospital. For information on how you can help go to www.jasonray.org