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Liam Salmon, 5, loses battle with terminal brain cancer

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 loses battle with DIPG
After finding out about Liam’s birthday wish for mail, he arrived home from a week-long stay in the hospital to a mountain of cards and packages from the trucking industry and agriculture community. Photo: Howard Salmon

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.

Liam was diagnosed with DIPG in early January 2020. Photo: Howard Salmon

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
Howard Salmon
6028 Calin Lane
Anderson, CA 96007

20 Comments

  1. My Heart Breaks for Ya’ll..My Sincere Condolences and 🙏 to Liam’s Family.. May God Comfort them and Give them Strength through this very difficult time..May Liam RIP and Fly High in Heaven.

  2. God bless you, Tractor Boy. I lost my father to brain cancer in 2018. I will forever treasure a photo taken of the two of us with our new John Deere tractor just 6 months before his passing.

  3. My prayers r with ur family. I’m sorry for ur loss. It’s hard to lose a child. They r dear and special to us. I lost a child but different reasons. Mine is my guardian angel just like urs is in Heaven for u. I wish I could tell u it gets easier by date but I can not. The memories and pain will always be there. But I can say it gets easier to cope and go on with God’s help and God’s love. If ever need talk I’m here.judt ctext me or find me on fb. I pray God helps u financial aid with ur grief. Hope God fills ur void and helps with ur grief. Ur friend and sister in Christ. Love u all.

  4. I am so sorry for your loss, he is resting in the arms of God and he is at peace now. In Jesus name I pray that you see him again in Heaven. GOD bless you and your family.💞

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and Trucks.com. If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to chawes@freightwaves.com.