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UNC student mascot dies after being hit by SUV

Posted March 26, 2007
Updated April 30, 2008

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— A University of North Carolina cheerleader died Monday morning, three days after being hit by a sport utility vehicle while attending the Tar Heels appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Jason Kendall Ray, a 21-year-old senior from Concord, was returning to his hotel in Fort Lee, N.J., after a Friday afternoon trip to a convenience store when he was struck from behind by an SUV on a highway.

Ray has portrayed UNC's Rameses mascot for three years. He was in New Jersey for the men's basketball team's Friday night game against the University of Southern California at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford.

More than two dozen family members and friends held a bedside vigil Sunday for Ray at Hackensack University Medical Center. A group of about 40 people attended a prayer session held on the UNC campus Sunday afternoon.

Ray was pronounced dead at 8:38 a.m. Monday. His organs were donated to Sharing Network of New Jersey. According to the Daily Tar Heel, a memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on the steps of Wilson Library.

"Jason was a wonderful son, brother and friend. He leaves behind a legacy of friendship, laughter, excitement for life and a genuine love for all the people he touched during his all-too-short life," Ray's brother, Allen Ray, said in a statement released by UNC's athletic department.

"Jason gave Rameses an energy that was unique," UNC cheerleading coach Brown Walters said. "He embodied all of the qualities you would want in a team member. He was a tremendous ambassador of the University of North Carolina, and that spirit will live on forever."

"This is a devastating loss to the Ray family and our university community," UNC athletics director Dick Baddour said. "Jason had many talents. Over the last several days, we have heard from so many people who said Jason went above the call of duty to brighten their days and make their child smile and laugh. He may have performed in the anonymity that comes with playing the mascot, but his life has had an overt and lasting impact on the people whose lives he touched."

"My heart goes out to Jason's family," UNC men's basketball coach Roy Williams said. "He was an engaging young man and a friend to a number of our players and managers. They tell me he was a wonderful person."

Close friends of Ray called his death unimaginable and unfair.

"He had such amazing charisma. He was so funny and great with people -- so spontaneous," said Stephanie Wheeler, who also portrayed Rameses. "(He was) one of the best mascots I've ever seen, really the heart and soul of Rameses."

"He was just there to cheer on the team and make everyone happy because he was the mascot, and instead, he ends up getting hit by a car and dying," UNC junior Sally Beth Moore said.

No charges have been filed in the accident, which police said remains under investigation.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Jason Kendall Ray Memorial Fund, Concord Christian Church, 3101 Davidson Highway, Concord, NC 28027.

162 Comments

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  • yosefasu3 Mar 28, 11:26 a.m.

    As a fellow mascot and long-time fan of the ACC, my heart is heavy with the loss of a colleague and my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whos life has been touched and affected by Jason. Most importantly, to his family, my deepest sympathies.

    '02-'05 Yosef
    Appalachian State

  • joanneh119 Mar 28, 2:26 a.m.

    My heart goes out to the Ray family and Jason's friends. I followed all of the news reports and cried with you. My son is an alumnus of UNC...the connection remains forever. Although he lives in another state...he too followed the news reports on Jason. We hope you will find strength and comfort in knowing caring thoughts from so many are with your family. May God Bless you and may perpetual light shine on Jason. Fayetteville, NC

  • kaecee Mar 27, 4:08 p.m.

    May God comfort the family and friends of Jason Ray in their time of mourning!

  • NCSpeedDiva Mar 27, 1:58 p.m.

    Good point COUNTRYGIRL - I cannot imagine the grief the driver is dealing with. I pray that he is able to deal with his grief and that his family keeps him strong.

  • Friend Mar 27, 1:43 p.m.

    Such a tragedy to lose such a promising young man and member of society. A person should be judged by what they give to their fellow man, friends, & family and from what I have heard everyone say he was an incredible person and I wish I had the honor of meeting him. My prayers and good wishes to his family and friends.

  • Deb1003 Mar 27, 11:58 a.m.

    To the Ray Family... I lost my 11 yr old daughter in 2005. We decided to donate whatever organs were suitable for a recipient. As a result, 5 people benefited from her contribution to life. You might not realize it at first, through the initial grief, but knowing that his organ donation saved a life or made life better for another person will bring you some measure of comfort at some point. My thoughts and prayers go out to you.

  • always concerned Mar 27, 11:57 a.m.

    To Jason's family and friends, I am deeply sorry for your loss. I prayed for his recovery, but GOD has taken him home. You are all in my prayers!

  • DrBlueDevil Mar 27, 11:54 a.m.

    I'm a one of those Cameron Crazies, but that doesn't stop me from sharing in the pain of a fellow student and Eagle Scout's untimely death. My heart goes out to his family and the entire UNC population. His final act of kindness by donating his organs truly shows what a fine man he is. In scouting, we were taught to do a good turn daily. This guy has gone above and beyond by saving several lives with his final good turn. Jason, you are a hero in my books, rest in peace.

  • CrystalG Mar 27, 11:36 a.m.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you all,family, friends and the campus of UNC. May God give you tremendous strength to make it through this time of sorrow. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.
    Pastor Jerome & Crystal Gay and the V.I.C Family

  • Dixe Mar 27, 11:13 a.m.

    This is so, so sad! I was really hoping he would recover from this. To the Ray Family, you are all in our prayers!

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