FAIRFAX STATION, Va. — When Ray Ballard was born, doctors didn't give his family much hope. He was born with SKID, Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, known as the bubble boy disease.
"A lot of it was a strong-willed kid who just wasn't going to give up," said his mother Barb Ballard. Her son died early Saturday morning. He was 25.
Ray did not have it easy. He was in and out of hospitals his whole life. And starting when he was nine years old, he was not able to eat solid food.
Still, Ray embraced life, joining several organizations including the Woodson High School rifle team, for which he received three high school sports letters.
"We always joked we found him a sport he could do standing still," his mom said.
When he was teenager, Ray was granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish foundation. The story has it that his first choice was to share a hot tub with Megan Fox, since he loved women. Since that request was not accepted, he was sent to Hawaii with his dad and had a blast.
So much fun that he wanted to share it. He wanted to become a wish grantor. The organization paired him with Doug Crowe from Fairfax Station. They would ride around in Doug's Ford pickup truck with the Virginia license plate "MKA WISH." Ray called it the Make-A-Wish Mobile.
"We granted some wishes for some pretty sick kids. And the kids just lit up when they saw him because--instant credibility. He'd been there and done it. He gave them hope. When he became a wish grantor his mantra, his message was, he wanted to pay it forward. He wanted to touch and impact others. And he did. He did it in a big way," said Crowe.
WUSA9 profiled Ray Ballard in a 2016 story.
Ray lived life to the fullest, becoming a part of several organizations. He had an impact on lots of people, but mostly on the families and children who had the same disease as he had.
"He had a resiliency that was just unmatched," said Crowe.
Ray's mom says her son taught people not to give up, "to think about other people, because he was very compassionate, very empathetic. When someone else had a problem, when someone else was sick, he was more worried about them them himself," Barb Ballard said.
Ray was wise beyond his years. One of the most profound things he said happened when Doug was having a bad day and they were riding in the wish mobile.
"And he goes, 'Let me show you a bad day.' And he rolled his shirt sleeve up and he had some needle marks and a bandage. And he said, "you know, Doug, if money can fix something, it's not really a problem."
Crowe was blown away. "It really touched me. It's so true."
Barb's voice cracked thinking about her son's last breath, "the last thing he said was that he just wanted to be normal." He was very sick and weak, but also tired of the constant poking and prodding his life-threatening illness demanded.
But Barb is comforted knowing that Ray left a legacy behind.
"He had to be here for a reason," she said. "And I think it was to give hope and strength to a lot of people."
Funeral plans had not been made at this time.