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Former Tar Heel mascot Jason Ray enjoyed life to the fullest—he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, brought Tar Heel fans to their feet in the Dean Dome, and traveled to the developing world to help children and families in need. His decision to be an organ donor ultimately helped over 100 organ recipients enjoy their lives to the fullest too.

Charlotte and Emmitt Ray

When faced with the daunting task of carrying on their son Jason’s legacy after his death in 2007, Charlotte and Emmitt Ray knew they had to “finish up what he started” and established the Jason Ray Foundation. The mission of the Jason Ray Foundation is to increase awareness for organ donations and to raise funds to support patients receiving organ transplants at UNC. Due to their efforts and because of the remarkable young man they raised, Jason will never be forgotten.

Jason’s decision to be an organ donor directly saved 118 lives, including four men highlighted in the ESPN documentary on Jason’s life, Ray of Hope. Jason’s decision also inspired a national movement. When his story made national news in 2007, over 46,000 people signed up to be organ donors. Charlotte and Emmitt built upon this movement as they traveled across the country to encourage organ donation. Jason’s parents could have stopped there, having honored their son’s legacy by saving lives. However, Charlotte and Emmitt share Jason’s desire to do things to the fullest, and they wanted a permanent means of connecting Jason’s name with the things that were meaningful to him — being part of the Carolina family and helping people who need it most. Because of the Ray’s leadership and generosity, the UNC Hospitals Transplant Clinic was named the UNC Hospitals Jason Ray Transplant Clinic in April 2016. Kate Artin, LCSW, Transplant Case Manager for the Heart Transplant and Left Ventricular Assist Device Teams, says, “Jason’s name, image, and story are constant reminders of the power of organ donation. I’m hopeful that honoring his memory and generosity allows patients and families to leave inspired by his story, share it with others, and encourage organ donation in their communities.”

From proceeds of the Jason Ray Foundation, the Ray family established the Jason Ray Transplant Fund, which offers emergency financial assistance to transplant patients who receive care at the UNC Center for Transplant Care. Since the fund’s inception in 2009, the Jason Ray Foundation has been responsible for more than $500,000 in contributions. Over the last 18 months, Jason’s fund has helped 41 patients and their families make a payment towards utilities, rent, mortgage, or their means of transportation. This emergency financial support allows patients and families to prioritize their health expenses and allows the transplant recipient and donated organs to remain healthy. This financial assistance is “one of the ways that Jason’s generous spirit continues to offer care to individuals at UNC, a place Jason loved,” comments Kristi Graham, LCSW, Transplant Case Manager for Kidney Transplant Team.

Those who want to join Charlotte and Emmitt and the countless others who knew and loved Jason in honoring his legacy can help in two ways. First, register as an organ donor; this decision will save lives. Second, consider a gift to the Jason Ray Transplant Fund to support UNC patients and families in need of a transplant.


“Our patients have so many struggles and burdens. The Jason Ray Transplant Fund offers support that helps our patients and their families financially and emotionally. When someone is worried about money, having a bill paid is like a gift from heaven.”

–  Laurie McDonald, LCSW, Transplant Case Manager for Lung Transplant Team and Independent Living Donor Advocate and Transplant Case Manager for Kidney Living Donor Transplant Team


For more information on supporting the Jason Ray Transplant Fund, please contact Brian Frerking, Director of Development, at or 919-843-5733. To make a gift, click here.

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