Sheriff honors local teen battling terminal cancer

Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie swears in Zack as an honorary deputy

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – More than 16,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year.

But we have to remember its not just a number. There are names, people behind those diagnosis.

Effingham County Deputies did their part to make sure one young man helped make his mom’s special day even better.

Zack Norton is suffering from a rare form of cancer, Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma. Zack has undergone months of chemo treatment. However, the cancer has spread and Zack has been given months, if not weeks, to live.

Zack Norton is suffering from a rare form of cancer Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma


His mom wanted to make sure he could be part of her wedding day, moving up that ceremony six months, to Wednesday night.

But before she said “I do”, Zack was able one more special moment all his own.

“The guys (deputies) brought it to me,” explained Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. “The guys started talking about it as well and said why don’t we do it. I said why not.”

Zack was made an honorary Effingham County Sheriff’s Deputy


“To see the way he’s fought this battle. I know you hear it all the time that they fought it hard but this young man has given it all he’s had and then some,” said Effingham County Deputy Walt Lawson, a family friend who helped organize Zack’s special moment. “Some of the times people have been weak he’s been a rock for everyone. Its hard not to help someone like that.”

Zack was brought from his home, in a wheelchair, placed in an Effingham County Sheriff’s car, and driven by Deputy Lawson to the wedding.

“What’s it like when you see the Sheriff give him that shirt?”
“Probably going to keep my sunglasses on,” said an emotional Lawson.

“His days are numbered, he only has a week or two,” said a teary eyed Amber Norton-Edenfield, Zack’s Mom. “So I’m glad they are doing stuff that means something to him. Things that make him feel a little better in his last few days. So I really appreciate it.”

As Zack was driven into the plantation where the wedding was being held, Effingham County Deputies lined the street, sirens blaring, all in his honor.

They then all lined up near the altar as the Sheriff himself made Zack an honorary Sheriff’s deputy, badge and all.

“Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws of the United States and the laws of Effingham County?”
“Can you say I do?”
“I do”

Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie swears in Zack as an honorary deputy


“Not a lot of dry eyes in the house.”
“All I could do too the not cry,” said Sheriff McDuffie. “A young man that is being taken at an early age and didn’t even get a chance.”

McDuffie said it was an emotional moment for each one of his deputies at the ceremony.

“These guys. Every one of us have big hearts and try to have big hearts. That’s why we do what we do what we do. that’s just an example of doing what we do. An opportunity to say thank you and do something for someone else.”

Zack’s mom, very thankful for Zack’s moment in the spotlight.

“I just love where we come from and everything that everyone has done for us and for him,” said Amber. “It means a lot to us.”

Effingham County Sheriff’s were able to set up the entire event in just a few days.

Amber Norton is now Amber Norton-Edenfield. With Zack by her side, she said “I do”.

Friends and family have set up a account for Zack, and have been donating meals on a schedule for the whole family.

A Fund for Zack

There will be a celebration of life for Zack June 3 at Rincon First Baptist Church.

The celebration of life will consist of several vendors, a dunk booth, food, a bounce house, and several other activities. All monies raised will go to Amber and her husband Toby to help with upcoming expenses.

The event will take place at Rincon First Baptist, outside, on June 3rd from 10 am – 5 PM

Editor’s Note: News 3 learned today that Zack Norton has succumbed to his illness. Our deepest condolences to the Norton family during these trying times.

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