We marked Jacob’s 11th birthday with a visit to his favorite playground, cupcakes, the company of loved ones and a blood drive. Our sweet boy was with us in spirit though not there to celebrate with us physically. Cancer stole him away from us when he was just 9 years old.

Jacob Thompson loved penguins and his 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,” his mother said. Photo courtesy amazingdjmusic.com

Across the country and even around the globe, Jacob is known as the boy who inspired thousands of people to send him early cards for Christmas, a holiday he loved but did not live to see in 2017. He also loved Legos, swimming, the color orange and penguins – so much so that the family motto became “Live Like a Penguin.” For us, that means to chill, to stick with the raft – the name for a group of penguins at sea – to celebrate family and to dive into kindness.

Jacob’s annual birthday blood drive is one way his legacy continues to spread ripples of kindness throughout the world. During his four-year battle with neuroblastoma, the most common and deadly pediatric cancer, Jacob received more than 100 blood and platelet transfusions, thanks to the volunteer donors who so generously give this gift of life.

We are paying it forward with our blood drives with the American Red Cross. We’ve seen firsthand how important blood and platelet donation is to cancer patients, especially pediatric cancer patients.

Each of Jacob’s transfusions was a miracle – like watching a wilted flower placed in a vase of water and blossoming back to life. As the bag of red blood cells or platelets connected to Jacob emptied, we could see his energy rise and his spirit lift. He would light up, ready to kick around a soccer ball, chase his cousins or walk our Piper to the dog park.

We can’t know exactly whose donations made those transfusions possible for Jacob. But we do know this: Your gift gave us time with our dear boy, even as we knew he would not survive beyond 2017, and beautiful memories that we otherwise would not have been able to make together.


We can never thank the donors enough for that. Blood products cannot be manufactured. Volunteer donors are the sole source for the people who need blood products every two seconds in the United States.

It could be someone who has been burned or hurt in an accident, the recipient of an organ donation, a woman having complications during childbirth or a patient undergoing treatment for leukemia or sickle cell disease. It could be a little girl or boy fighting cancer who is able to enjoy an afternoon like a normal child because a stranger was willing to roll up their sleeve for someone in need.

The blood supply isn’t always able to keep up with demand. Jacob’s drive took place during a summer emergency shortage that the Red Cross still faces. Blood products are going to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. Donors are needed now to help prevent delays in lifesaving care for patients.

Summer is a challenging time to collect blood, and around Labor Day the Red Cross sees a steep decline in donations. But these can be overcome when donors turn out to re-stock shelves. Please consider giving if you are eligible and help to encourage others to give if you are not able to yourself. You can learn more and make an appointment at www.RedCrossBlood.org.

We’re already planning for next year’s drive. This year, Jacob’s birthday drive collected 23 units of blood. The friends, neighbors, co-workers and family who came out for it inspire us, as do those who give elsewhere and share the message about the constant need for blood. Each unit has the potential to save as many as three lives. Just imagine the impact of this kindness radiating out in the world.

Jacob would have been amazed to see it, his heart lifted and full to see so many who Live Like a Penguin.


Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.