When Jacob Thompson’s family made a plea for holiday cards for their 9-year-old son, they quietly hoped they would get a response from every New England state.

Jacob was diagnosed four years ago with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor, his family said. When it became clear Jacob would not live until Christmas, his family decided to celebrate early. They invited people through social media to send cards to Jacob at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Before he died Sunday, Jacob received more than 66,000 cards, gifts and video messages from around the world.

“It made us feel good that his love went around the world,” said Roger Guay, Jacob’s father, in an interview Tuesday. “People who don’t even know him, he touched their lives.”

As the cards and Christmas wishes poured in, Guay said he used Google Maps to show his son how far the request had reached. They pointed to Germany and Sweden, Japan and China. They told him mail from Australia traveled 18 hours in an airplane to reach his bedside.

“He gave a smile and a nose scrunch, which means that was special for him,” Guay said. “Toward the end, he realized his nose scrunch said everything he wanted to. He used that more often than words.”

Jacob’s story made national headlines in The Washington Post, ABC News and other outlets. His well-wishers included a number of politicians and celebrities, among them former first lady Barbara Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maine native Anna Kendrick. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent Jacob a personal letter along with the autographs of players. A convoy of more than 100 police cruisers and motorcycles that originated in Stoughton, Massachusetts, traveled to Portland to drive by Jacob’s hospital room. A local magician performed for Jacob and his family, and the boy got to pick the first song of the holiday season for radio station 94.9 WHOM. The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut brought live penguins – Jacob’s favorite animal – to the hospital for a visit.

“We’re just overwhelmed with the love and support we’ve gotten from all over the world,” Guay said.

Jacob’s obituary, to be published in full on Wednesday, describes his passions as those of a normal 9 year old: “MineCraft, Legos, YouTuber TDM, Trolls, swimming and singing along to his favorite songs.”

“Jacob loved spending time with his Memere Claire, having Sunday dinner with his Memere and Pepere Guay; playing video games with his older brother, Christopher, and younger cousins, Joey and Alex, playing with matchbox cars with his younger brother Joel and going on adventures with cousins, Bella and Peter. Jacob was always accompanied by his entourage of stuffed animal supports, ‘Penguin’ and ‘Baby Penguin’ and his orange blanket,” the obituary says.

The little boy’s motto was “live life like a penguin,” which meant “be friendly, stand by each other, go the extra mile, jump into life and be cool,” said his mother, Michelle Thompson Simard.

Jacob attended St. Louis Child Development Center in Biddeford and Young School in Saco. He was in the second grade. On Tuesday, Simard visited Young School to give stuffed animal penguins to students there, according to WCSH-TV reporter Lee Goldberg.

“We’re all sad,” Guay said. “We all are comforting each other.”

A GoFundMe campaign to pay for Jacob’s funeral expenses had raised nearly $165,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. In his obituary, Jacob’s family suggested people who would like to make a donation in his honor to do so to the penguin department at New England Aquarium. On a Facebook page called Jacob Thompson’s Journey, the family has also suggested making donations to another penguin rescue operation or to Operation Gratitude.

Going forward, Guay said they want to find a way to honor Jacob’s memory but haven’t settled on anything specific.

“We want to pay it forward,” he said.

Public visitation for Jacob will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Cote Funeral Home Chapel in Saco. The family has requested that the funeral service and burial be private.


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