Video courtesy of Maine Medical Center

Jacob Thompson got another early Christmas gift Thursday when he received a visit from two penguins.

Family, friends and supporters have been celebrating the holiday early with the terminally ill 9-year-old Saco boy, whose parents have been told by doctors that he could die “within the month.”

Since he was admitted to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland last month, Thompson has received tens of thousands of Christmas cards from well-wishers across the world. Then on Wednesday, a convoy of more than 100 police cruisers and motorcycles that originated in Stoughton, Massachusetts, traveled to Portland and formed a line on St. John Street that was so long it could be seen from the boy’s hospital room on the Maine Medical Center campus.

What could possibly top that? Penguins, his favorite animal.

When Jacob’s mother, Michelle Thompson Simard, wrote on her son’s gofundme fundraising site saying that her son had been admitted on Oct. 11 to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital “for the last time,” a photograph of Jacob dressed in a penguin costume accompanied the post.

Jacob is being treated for Stage 4 neuroblastoma and touched hearts nationwide this fall after his parents encouraged people on social media to send their son Christmas cards early. Neuroblastoma is a rare form of terminal cancer that has spread to different parts of Jacob’s body, including the membrane between his skull and brain, The Washington Post reported Nov. 3.

“Words can’t express our immense gratitude for the joy that so many people from all over the world have brought Jacob. As of Thursday, he had received 66,000 Christmas cards and he has enjoyed reading them. On Sunday, we will celebrate Christmas as a family in a special way thanks to all of you,” his family wrote in a statement issued Thursday night. “We sincerely hope that Jacob has inspired everybody to #LiveLikeAPenguin.”

The Twitter hashtag mentioned in the statement features a recent photo of Thompson and quotes him as saying, “Jacob says to live like a penguin. This means be friendly, stand by each other, go the extra mile, jump into life and be cool.”

Jacob’s affinity for penguins caught the attention of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Silver Spring, Maryland, which contacted Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut to see if it could arrange for Jacob to meet his favorite animal up close.

Jacob Thompson, 9, meets an African penguin from Mystic Aquarium today outside the Maine Medical Center in Portland. Jacob has Stage 4 neuroblatoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor. As of the most recent count yesterday, Jacob has received 42,700 Christmas cards. Photo from Maine Medical Center video

The Mystic aquarium created a bag of “penguin swag” for Jacob and arranged for two African Penguins – the birds are part of the aquarium’s penguin outreach program – to take a four-hour van ride to Maine.

Senior penguin trainer Josh Davis introduced the birds to Jacob and he got to stroke their backs as part of a visit that lasted about an hour, said Mystic Aquarium spokeswoman Dale Wolbrink.

“He was definitely excited. He scrunched up his nose, which we were told was a sign that he likes something,” Wolbrink said. “It was one of those things that we don’t want to have to do, but which was as meaningful for us as it was for his parents and family.”

Since Simard and Jacob’s father, Roger Guay, were told Jacob might not live more than a month, they have spent as much time as possible with him and have been asking for donations to cover his funeral expenses. As of Thursday evening, more than $147,000 in donations had been contributed to the campaign.

“Jacob has touched the lives of so many, he, as well as his father and myself appreciate your continued support, love and well wishes,” Simard wrote.

Thompson’s family says it will continue to post updates on its Facebook page – Jacob Thompson’s Journey.

Correction: This story was updated at 8:50 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2017 to clarify that Michelle Thompson Simard and Roger Guay have never been married.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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