UNC mascot's parents urge organ donation

Posted April 29, 2012 2:46 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2012 11:11 p.m. EDT

— The parents of a University of North Carolina student run over and killed five years ago want to keep their son's memory alive by supporting people who donate organs.

Charlotte and Emmitt Ray were in Chapel Hill Sunday to raise money for the Jason Ray Foundation. It's named after their son who played the Tar Heel's mascot Ramses and was hit and killed by an SUV in March 2007 while in New Jersey for the NCAA tournament.

"I'm trying to take something really bad and turn it into something good," Charlotte Ray said.

Her son's organs were donated after he died, and meeting the people who received them has changed her, Charlotte Ray said.

She and her husband admitted they didn't support organ donations when their son told them he signed up to be a donor.

"I said, 'Jason, do you understand what that means?' And he said, 'Yes, mother, I don't want to die, but if something happens and you can't save me, don't bury me with something that can help someone else,'" Charlotte Ray said.

An event at the Carolina Club Sunday kicked off a campaign to raise $1 million for the Jason Ray Foundation. It will help pay for medical expenses not covered by insurances and other costs incurred by transplant recipients and living donors.

Johnny Watkin said he hopes the foundation will help people do like he has done. Last week, he donated his kidney to his former boss.

"I said, 'Mr. Bill, if there is anything that I can do to help you pull through, let me know,'" Watkins said.

The Rays said their son continues to inspire them and they are following in his footsteps.

"Now both of us are organ donors," Charlotte Ray said.