To say that Zechariah Cartledge is a special kid would be a vast understatement.
As a fourth-grade honor roll student and cross-country runner at Layer Elementary School in Winter Springs, FL, Zechariah has made it his personal mission to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Carrying a flag, he runs 1 mile at a time; onefor each officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2017 and 2018, pausing to say a prayer and share their story in remembrance. He has committed to running over 150 miles this year, raising money through sponsors for a foundation that honors first-responders and injured military service members.
Photo Caption: Zechariah was a runner first and he discovered a deep respect for fallen Officers on duty when he ran in the Tunnel to Towers 5K in Orlando, Florida in 2017.
“I really just wanted to honor police officers because they do so much for us in the community and the hate that they’re getting is just really unacceptable because they do so much for us and when I hear an officer pass away it just breaks my heart,” Zechariah told “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning.
The first ever recipient of the State of Florida’s “Back the Blue” awardthis past February, Zechariah has had a fascination with police officers and fire fighters from a very young age, but it wasn’t until he ran the Tunnel to Towers 5K in Orlando, Florida in 2017 that he realized he would use his special gift of running to truly make a difference in the lives of his heroes.
The Tunnel to Towers 5K is held nationally as the legacy of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who gave his own life rescuing others on September 11th, 2001. Having just finished his shift, he was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he heard on the scanner that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Determined to carry out his duty, Stephen told his brothers he would catch up with them later and returned to Brooklyn Squad 1 to get his gear. Despite the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel leading to Manhattan being closed, Stephen strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and ran on foot straight towards the devastation of the Twin Towers where he died in the collapse after saving many lives. The original 5K race is held annually in New York City and retraces the steps taken by Siller, benefitting first responders and injured military service members.
Feeling inspired after running the 5K in Orlando, Zechariah was determined to run the original legacy race in New York City. With the help of his family and community, he was able to raise over $11,000 for the cause in 2018.
Photo Caption: Zechariah raised over $11,000 in 2018 for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation benefitting first responders. In 2019 he hopes to raise $15,000.
His father Chad gives his support and respect to his young son saying, “I love seeing people using their God-given talents as a way to honor our heroes. Zechariah’s gift is running, so he runs a mile for every fallen on-duty LEO while also raising funds for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.”
Since first partnering with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in 2017, Zechariah’s goals have only gotten bigger, and for this year’s race he is hoping to raise $100 in memory of each of the 150 fallen officers in 2018, making this year’s goal $15,000.
As of Monday, March 4th, Zechariah had raised over $30,000. Click here to donate!
Kate Sulick is the Marketing Director and Founder of Atlantic Digital Studios in Hartford, Connecticut.