A young boy battling brain cancer has been named the "nation’s youngest special sheriff deputy” in Huntington County, Indiana.
Wyatt Schmaltz, a 3-year-old with stage 4 neuroblastoma, was dubbed “Deputy Wyatt” by County Sheriff Terry Stoffehel in a ceremony Wednesday.
"We have given Wyatt all the powers of a real Sheriff Deputy, which are to carry out the orders of the Sheriff,” Stoffehel said in a statement. “Right now, his only orders are to get better."
Stoffehel said the Sheriff's Department had planned to host Wyatt at a local camp run by different law enforcement personnel, but changed their plans after Wyatt returned to the hospital with an infection.
Instead, the department cut a uniform shirt down to Wyatt’s size and gave him a special certificate. Stoffehel even had the boy recite the same oath that all other deputies take when they’re sworn in.
“He was just overwhelmed," Stoffehel said. "It took a while for everything absorb in. He was just floored.”
Wyatt is fighting to survive stage 4 neuroblastoma, a form of brain cancer that most commonly affects children 5-years-old and younger, according to the Mayo clinic. He was diagnosed in April and has already undergone several rounds of chemotherapy at the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, according to a hospital statement.
Wyatt's mother, April Schmaltz, said her son was most excited about the police badge, since he often "arrests" his older brothers when they play at home.
"It’s very touching that they would all do this for him," she said of the gesture. "When he sees all the support, it makes him stronger."
Wyatt used his new badge today, and told a nurse tasked with taking his blood that she was "under arrest,” Schmaltz said.
Schmaltz expects Wyatt to be released from the hospital Friday, but the young new deputy faces more complicated treatments, including surgery to remove a tumor in his abdomen and stem cell treatments, she said.
Dr. Michele Saysana, a pediatrician with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, said the badge could help Wyatt through the healing process.
"It brought tears to our team member's eyes to see officers who are sworn to protect and serve travel to pay tribute to one of our patients,” she said in a statement.
Wyatt got his own badge and uniform as part of his new position, but evidently that wasn’t quite enough. After being given his new gifts, Wyatt turned to the Sheriff and deputy and said, “What’s next?”