MADISONVILLE, TEXAS — A Florida boy who runs to raise awareness and show appreciation for first responders made his return to Central Texas Saturday. His efforts continue to impact local lives.
Zechariah Cartledge with Running 4 Heroes made a stop in Texas this weekend. Texas is the state, he says, he has visited the most.
Throughout his 1-mile run in Madisonville, he carried a flag in support of fallen law enforcement officers.
"I'm glad to be here and I can't wait to start my run," Zechariah Cartledge, Founder of Running 4 Heroes said.
"I think this is something that God has put on my hand. I have great parents supporting me and making sure I do all of the right things. I have inspiration with this. I wanted to start something amazing. We have lots of people supporting behind it. With the help of me, the 21 board members, my whole family and friends. It's a team effort, but at the end of the day, I am glad to be doing this and it's great when I get to travel and meet more people," he added.
With each whip of his flag and every step he takes, this 12-year-old Floridian is remembering and honoring fallen officers from the Lone Star State.
"People, especially first responders and officers here today, there are many supporting them across the nation. There are some areas where officers and firefighters may not really think that, but with the help of me and lots of people I want them to know youth also supports them and is on their side and I hope that me being a younger person I can lead the generation for the respect of first responders for what they do on a daily basis and also let people learn about fallen and injured first responders too that paid the ultimate sacrifice for their community to stay safe," he added. "I really want people to learn these stories and let them know that it's a hard job being a first responder and for the ones that have passed away and that are injured they need support and their family needs lots of support as well."
In support of what this pre-teen is doing, his cause is reaching those who carry the weight of protecting and serving Texans.
"It's very commendable and respectable that someone that is his age is doing something like this for us, law enforcement as a whole, here in the state of Texas, and hopefully across the country as well," Chet Seelinger, a DPS Trooper said.
Cartledge says he does events almost every weekend and his mission raises more than just awareness to fallen and injured officers.
"I have given, as of today, $145,000 to 19 different recipients over the past year and a half," Cartledge added.
Saturday, Cartledge gifted Madison County Trooper Juan Tovar with his non-profit's injured First Responders Grant.
"Which one of the main parts of our mission and that is the reason why we travel most of the time, so we gave a $10,000 check to Trooper Juan Tovar who was injured a few months ago who lost his left eye and now we are going to do a 1-mile run in honor of fallen first responders across the great state of Texas," Cartledge added.
Cartledge wasn't alone on his trek around Madisonville High School, residents and fellow law enforcement officers suited up and also ran.
"For him to do something like that and for officers to fall in, in full uniform, and do that it means a lot. Hopefully, people will take up his cause and do the same," Seelinger added.
Cartledge says he’s ran almost a thousand miles, at 939, for fallen first responders over the last 2 and a half years.
Running 4 Heroes became a non-profit in 2019. Donations to the organization help fund their Fallen Hero Flag Mission, the Injured First Responders Grant program, K9 Vests and Safety Supplies and their Travel Mission.