Five-year-old Liam Salmon lost his nearly year-long battle to a pediatric brain tumor on New Year’s Eve.
Liam is the son of Howard and Mary Salmon of Anderson, California. The family plans to have a celebration of life service post-COVID-19, once large groups are allowed to gather again.
His infectious smile and love of big rigs and John Deere tractors captured the hearts of many in the trucking industry and agriculture community as they rallied around Liam to grant his wish for mail for his fifth birthday wish in October. Law enforcement agencies from across the country mailed him patches, calling him “Officer Liam.”
Liam was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a pediatric brain tumor that infiltrates the pons portion of the brainstem that controls breathing, sleeping and balance on January 4, 2020.
Soon after hearing about Liam’s fatal diagnosis, the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund (SCF) provided the Salmons with financial assistance — paying two of the couple’s house payments — so Howard, a 24-year owner-operator, could take time off of the road to be with Liam during his radiation treatments, according to the SCF statement.
Howard and Liam also were featured on the marketing materials for TravelCenters of America’s ‘Be A Champion of Change’ fundraiser benefiting SCF.
“Liam touched so many lives in his short life,” Howard Salmon, a veteran truck driver, said in the SCF statement. “This trucker’s son was a ‘mini-me.’”
Since 2008, SCF, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) has helped thousands of professional truck drivers and their families with financial needs due to current medical problems.
“His name will remain in the hearts of many people,” Salmon said. “He wanted daddy to be able to help other kids, so that is what we will be doing from now on.”
Liam’s heartbreaking prognosis
On Jan. 4, 2020, doctors at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento discovered a brain tumor. Liam was quickly scheduled for a biopsy, but the results were not good, Salmon told FreightWaves in October.
After digesting this news, the Salmons were dealt another devastating blow. Currently, there is no cure for DIPG, which has a 0% survival rate.
As an owner-operator, Howard Salmon only makes money when his wheels turn. However, the Salmons made the decision to park the truck and spend every day with Liam.
Liam was later transferred to the University of California in San Fransisco, where he underwent 30 rounds of radiation, which he completed on March 17. Before Liam’s death, his doctors in California had joined forces with a North Carolina doctor who is working on a new chemotherapy treatment to shrink brain tumors.
‘Tractor boy’ Liam loved mail
Before Liam’s terminal diagnosis of DIPG, Salmon described Liam as his “shadow.”
“He used to walk around my truck with me,” Salmon said. “If I kicked the tires, so did he. That’s what little boys do. They follow dad.”
Liam, also known as “tractor boy” by his friends and family, had a simple request for his fifth birthday: mail. And boy, did he get his wish after FreightWaves posted an article about Liam’s love of mail, John Deere and Legos. The trucking industry and John Deere’s Twitter followers quickly responded and found birthday cards and little surprises to send him.
His supporters also donated to his Liam Strong GoFundMe page set up by his aunt, Jennifer Syfert, so that his dad, Howard, could park his truck and “make every day about Liam.”
However, Liam’s condition worsened in late December. His family and friends held a prayer vigil for him a night before his passing.
The Salmons plan to honor Liam by helping other kids affected by DIPG as they have witnessed firsthand the physical, emotional and financial toll this devastating, fatal disease takes on families.
Howard Salmon also appeared on WHAT THE TRUCK?!? to update listeners and readers about Liam’s condition, educate the industry about DIPG and advocate for more research funding to study this fatal brain cancer affecting children.
According to The Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation, only 4% of all cancer research money is spent on pediatric cancers. The organization said the entire amount spent annually on DIPG research — approximately $3 million to $5 million — is less than 0.0005% of the total funding for cancer research.
Approximately 300 children are diagnosed with DIPG each year in the U.S. The average life expectancy of a child diagnosed with this disease is 6 months to 1 year.
His parents also wanted to thank everyone who helped make Liam’s last year special.
“Drivers, please take it from me — make every day with your family full of love,” Howard Salmon said. “Liam taught me the meaning of love.”
To send condolences and support for Salmon Family
6028 Calin Lane
Anderson, CA 96007