3-year-old cancer patient made special deputy

(Provided Photo/ Gene Ford at Indiana University Health)

INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – A three-year-old boy became the youngest special deputy in Indiana Wednesday morning. The Huntington County sheriff honored the cancer patient for his courage, swearing him in from his hospital bed.

Wyatt Schmaltz is currently battling Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer.

“He has a tumor in his abdomen that was too big to be removed. They just had to biopsy it. Then he had cancer in his bone marrow. So it was in both knees, his hips, and his spine. It’s been a very long journey,” said Wyatt’s mom April Schmaltz. “We found out on the 14th [of April] and by the 18th he was starting chemo, which was very quick because what they said he has is very aggressive.”

The mother of three boys said Wyatt’s cancer came as heartbreaking news. Wyatt, her youngest, is usually very lively and has been taking on the condition with a positive attitude.

“He’s a very outgoing little boy. He loves to talk, loves to make people smile,” April said.

Because of that courage, leaders asked Wyatt to come to Camp Hero in Huntington for a special honor. All week, more than 200 kids have been learning about law enforcement, integrity, and courage at the day camp. Unfortunately, Wyatt had to make an unexpected trip back to Riley and couldn’t make it. So Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel brought the honor straight to Wyatt’s hospital bed Wednesday morning.

Stoffel presented Wyatt a sheriff’s uniform custom-made for the three-year-old, a metal, and a plaque. After Stoffel read the oath, Wyatt became the youngest special deputy in Indiana.

Up at camp hero in Huntington, hundreds of kids and dozens of law enforcement officers gathered in a gymnasium to watch Wyatt’s swearing-in live via Skype on a projector screen. As soon as it finished, the crowd erupted in cheers and an extended round of applause.

Medical leaders at Riley said this kind of support significantly helps the healing process.

“You can see that Wyatt and others, they emulate all these heroes that they have. And they take on the strength of all these people who are coming out to help them,” said Jake Zucker, pediatric fellow in hematology and oncology at Riley. “I think that strength is invaluable for getting them through all of their treatment.”

The impact of little Wyatt’s courage holds a special place in the hearts of the Huntington community. April says so many people have provided moral support, financial support, and prayers.

The three-year-old’s story also hit home with Sheriff Stoffel, who recently lost his wife to cancer.

“I lost my wife several years ago and we were soul mates. She was a very good woman and it’s–I know what [Wyatt’s] family is experiencing,” Stoffel said with teary eyes. “The ups and downs, the turns, and I just–it’s very touching and very moving.”

The graduation ceremony for Camp Hero in Huntington will be held Friday. Leaders hope Wyatt will be back out of the hospital and have invited him to be honored at the ceremony. Wyatt’s family said as a new special deputy, he’s been practicing his salute.

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