PORTLAND, Maine -- A 9-year-old Maine boy with cancer has died a week after his wish for an early Christmas celebration was fulfilled.
Jacob Thompson's family announced on social media that he died Sunday at Maine Medical Center in Portland. His family thanked those who sent Christmas cards and prayers, saying they brought joy and encouragement to the boy and his family.
Jacob was admitted to the hospital in October after four years of battling neuroblastoma, a cancer that starts in the nerve cells and generally affects infants and young children.
He loved Christmas and asked for cards. The response was overwhelming. Cards poured in from around the world. Police organized a caravan for him. The University of Maine hockey team paid a visit.
Knowing time was short, his family held a Christmas celebration at the hospital earlier this month that was replete with a tree, gifts and a visit from Santa.
"You brought Jacob joy, and you brought us all optimism for the future. Thank you for taking the time, and taking an interest in our sweet boy's journey. Sadly, there are many others like him that we hope you will continue to help," the family wrote Monday on Facebook.
"We hope that Jacob's story and the enormous outpouring of support from around the world will have a lasting impact on raising awareness for this disease," the family continued. "We hope that donations will be made, and a cure will be discovered as a result."
The boy loved penguins. His family urged people to make a donation to a penguin rescue group, Operation Gratitude "or pay it forward in your community."