FLORIDA – Amid all the chaos and turmoil going on in the country, there is still one positive message being carried out.
Since January 2019, an ambitious and determined 11- year old boy from Florida, Zechariah Cartledge, has been running a mile for every First Responder that has fallen in the line of duty. His motivation is to honor the First Responders who paid the ultimate price and to raise money for his non-profit organization, Running 4 Heroes.
Since then his ambition and motivation have stayed strong since he discovered the First Responder community.
In a zoom conference, Zechariah said:
“When I first went to run at the Tunnels to Towers event, I saw around 500- 1,000 firefighters, officers and military members running in their full gear alongside me, it just clicked and inspired me.”
Before each run, Zechariah pulls out his fact sheet about the fallen First Responder and says a quick prayer. He then runs while carrying a Thin Blue Line flag, which he later sends to the respective families of the fallen First Responder.
Zechariah’s Running 4 Heroes charity has collected over $80,000 in donations, all of which go back to families of the fallen.
In fact, he has expanded his charity campaign.
“Every single month we want to give a grant of $5,000 dollars to a First Responder that was injured in the line of duty.”
Zechariah’s running has changed since the onset of the pandemic. Instead of running with countless participants, officers follow him in their patrol cars to maintain social distancing. Only recently have they eased up a bit with the social distancing requirements.
Zechariah still raises money for First Responders and his group is growing despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
His organization keeps up with the demand of running and fund raising. He said that he prefers not to run at all, because that equates to no line-of-duty deaths.
As long as unfortunate First Responder deaths occur, he’s going to keep running.
“I want to do this as long as possible. Even after I’m done running, I still want to help in some way. Maybe keep the foundation… still raise money, but I’m not stopping.”
Zechariah’s father, Chad, checks the internet daily for updates on line- of- duty deaths.
“It’s all based on the Officer Down Memorial Page and the US Fire Administration Page. Whenever the websites add somebody, we know we have to do the run. We like to do the run within 24 to 48 hours to try to get the flag to the family in time for the service.”
Zechariah will continue to help the family of those heroes one mile a time. Unfortunately those deaths are likely to never end, we only hope that there will be someone like Zechariah to pass the baton to.
To donate to his cause, visit www.running4heroes.com
By Eddie Molina
About the writer: Eddie Molina volunteers to write articles for the law enforcement community. He’s written over 30 articles for Blue Magazine. He recently began working with a Law Enforcement podcast, End of Watch with Bootsy and Sal to continue giving law enforcement a voice. The podcast is available on Youtube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more.
Eddie is a full time police lieutenant in New Jersey with a masters degree in Public Administration, and Masters Leadership Certificate in Homeland Security, Fairleigh Dickinson University. He’s a former Army Captain (Honorable discharge) and OIF Veteran, a prior Adjunct Professor, and author of a book on leadership (to be released August 2020) with no title given yet.
Powerful: 11-year-old boy runs in honor of fallen trooper, leads other officers. We can’t stop crying.
February 7, 2020
Editor note: The powerful video can be watched below.
FLORIDA- In Martin County, Florida, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joseph Bullock was shot and killed while attempting to assist a stranded motorist along the I-95 near Stuart this past Wednesday.
While police do have a named suspect in the case, Franklin Reed III, we wanted to share the story about how an 11-year-old boy wanted to pay tribute to this fallen trooper.
Zechariah Cartledge was just 10-years-old when he founded the non-profit called Running 4 Heroes.
The young boy has an avid appreciation for first responders, and has dedicated Running 4 Heroes to raise awareness of the officers that have died in the line of duty.
Cartledge pays homage to the fallen by running one mile for every first responder that doesn’t make it home to their loved ones. During these runs he hoists a flag in-hand during the entirety, and upon completing his run, presents the flag to the family members of the fallen.
On February 6th, Cartledge made the emblematic run in honor of Trooper Bullock’s passing earlier in the week.
On the Running 4 Heroes Facebook page, Cartledge delivered meaningful words regarding the passing of the trooper on a livestreamed video of his run.
Cartledge stated prior to the run:
“I’m running for one that is close to home for me, from the Florida Highway Patrol. Tonight, I’m running for Trooper Joseph Bullock.
He worked for the Florida Highway Patrol and his end of watch was February 5th, 2020. He lost his life after being shot and killed after encountering a disabled vehicle on I-95.”
The young Cartledge noted the 19 years of service that Trooper Bullock dedicated to the FHP prior to passing.
While holding the Blue Line flag, Cartledge noted the local show of support by various law enforcement agencies who attended to honor the life and service of Trooper Bullock. The flag that Cartledge carried during his run was then later presented to one of the partners of Trooper Bullock.
During the run, various police vehicles and cruisers from several agencies followed Cartledge, and the other officers, during the seven laps. The father of Cartledge, Chad, named some of the many agencies that attended his son’s run.
Among those mentioned were the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Longwood Police Department, Winter Springs Police Department, Maitland Police Department, Sanford Police Department, as well as the Seminole County “Citizens on Patrol”.
After Chad noted the amazing career of Trooper Bullock, the Orange County Pipes and Drums began to play “Amazing Grace” to commemorate the fallen trooper. Sirens blared sporadically during the display of appreciation to Trooper Bullock until the run came to a close.
Cartledge delivered thoughtful words upon completion of his run, noting his desire of a 2020 that hosts no more police deaths:
“I pray that no more troopers, or officers, or deputies – especially from the Florida Highway Patrol – get shot and killed this year. [Trooper Bullock] was doing a very nice gesture for this man in the car, but unfortunately he was shot and killed.”
Inspiring words to heed from this young man, as he can see the selfless dedication that comes from our first responders daily.
As for the suspect in the case, Reed was fatally shot by Officer Jemel Headings of the Riviera Police Department following the gunning down of Trooper Bullock.
There are still many questions unanswered as to what happened that led to Reed allegedly shooting Trooper Bullock that day.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office, state prosecutors and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are currently investigating the case.
Last year, we brought you the story of another young lady who is also paying tribute to the fallen.
Megan O’Grady is 17-years-old. She’s one of three amazing kids . . . and her dad has been in law enforcement for 25 years.
Her greatest fear is her dad not coming home . . . and her young heart breaks each time she hears the story of a kid who lost their parent.
The attack on the officers in Dallas, Texas was the breaking point for her. She decided she needed to do something to help kids. And so she started a company called Blue Line Bears.
It’s a non-profit organization and it’s incredibly simple and powerful. Megan makes teddy bears out of the uniform shirts of fallen officers and gives them to their children.
There’s only so much that needs to be said by me about this incredible young lady. And so I’m going to simply leave you with HER words. This is an essay she wrote for her English Honors course. I hope you’ll SHARE her words when you’re done reading them.
This I Believe
Growing up as a daughter of a police officer was fun as a child.
I got to tell stories about how my dad arrested guys twice his size and wasn’t even scared or I could tell anyone who was mean to me on the playground, that my dad would arrest them for being mean.
Of course he never did, but it always intimidated people. I have always looked at my dad as a role model. On Dr. Seuss Day, my dad would come in uniform and read to my class wearing his red and white hat every year.
I thought he was the coolest dad ever. Sometimes he would surprise me and come to school and eat lunch with me and my friends while he was in uniform.
I thought it was so sweet of him to use his lunch break to spend time with me. He once let my Girl Scout troop visit the police department and he gave us a tour and he let the police dog attack him when he had a protective suit on. I thought he was the bravest guy in the entire world.
I used to always hug him goodbye without fear, but now when he leaves for work I worry about him being safe.
As I have grown older, my views have changed drastically. It turns out, as a kid, I thought the world was filled with people singing “Kumbaya” in a giant circle, but it’s not.
The world has somehow developed a negative attitude towards the people like my dad. While I was watching the news one day there was a clip that showed a man with a megaphone and a crowd surrounding him.
The man with the megaphone yelled, “What do we want?” then the people yelled, “Dead cops!” and then he yelled, “When do we want them?” and the crowd replied, “Now!” I started crying immediately.
These people were out to kill people like my dad. People don’t realize that there is a fine line between good and evil and the police are the ones standing on that line and holding back the evil so that the good can live without fear.
After seeing instances where police have started to get killed because of their occupation, I realized that my dad walks out the door and into work with the knowledge that the hug I just gave him might just be the last.
Yet, he would still jump in front of a bullet without hesitation if it meant he was saving someone, even someone who might hate him. Unfortunately, there are people who don’t see him as a human being with feelings and a family at home.
They only see his uniform and automatically assume that he is a heartless and brutal person. But instead, he is my dad who tells me I can’t date until I’m 95 and still tucks me in at night even though I’m 14.
I believe people should respect police officers more, because of the sacrifices they make. Each has parents and most have a spouse and kids that they risk losing daily.
Cops don’t just wake up and think, “Hey why don’t I just kill some people so I can have more people hate us?” They wake up thinking that they have to go to work and it will be a good day, but a person can change that day into the day where that police might have to take someone’s life in order to protect others.
They are all human. I believe that society should start treating them like humans.
Don’t look at the badge, but instead look at the person. Look at the person who coaches their son’s baseball team, walks his daughter down the aisle, and goes to Mass on Sundays.
I believe they should not be discriminated against. All cops have goals and ambitions, they love others, and they have good and bad days, just like everyone. I believe the police should be appreciated.
I want my dad to see me graduate, see me at my wedding, and even hold my future child. I believe police should be judged on their actions, not their occupation.
You can learn more on her Facebook page @Blue Line Bears.
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