COLORADO SPRINGS — An 11-year-old boy in Florida is dedicating a 1-mile run Wednesday to an El Paso County deputy who died due to COVID-19 earlier this month.
Zechariah Cartledge is raising money for Running 4 Heroes, a nonprofit he started when he was just 10 years old, according to the group's Facebook page. The page states the organization "seeks to raise funds for our injured first responders while also paying tribute to our Fallen Heroes through running."
All of his runs are streamed on their Facebook page. Cartledge said he has given three different $5,000 grants to injured first responders so far.
Cartledge has been running for fallen first responders since January 2019. He said in that time, he has completed 445 miles. "Even thought that's 445 people that we've lost, I also think that that's 445 families touched, and that's what keeps me going," Cartledge said. Deputy Jeff Hopkins with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office was the 446th mile.
He began his 1-mile run, carrying a Blue Line Flag at 8:30 p.m. ET for Hopkins, who passed away on April 1. The sheriff's office announced at a press conference on April 2 that the 41-year-old deputy died due to the virus. He was with the sheriff's office since 2001. Hopkins leaves behind his parents, and a wife who is expecting their first child.
The flag carried by Cartledge is more than just a symbol. "Afterwards I send that flag as well as a handwritten note to the family to help them have a little bit more comfort," Cartledge said.
Running 4 Heroes said Zechariah will run on his own to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Typically, Cartledge said other runners may join him, followed by police cruisers and even bagpipes. However, since COVID-19, he is running alone, with the cars following him and flashing their lights.
"Even though I'm running alone, I know all of the angels that I've ran for are running with me tonight," Cartledge said.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard participated in a private memorial Tuesday for Hopkins with his family.
The sheriff's office recently announced Hopkins will be provided a full police honors service once the all-clear is given to do so.
"It is our medical opinion that the death of El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Hopkins was due to COVID-19 as a direct result of in the line of duty action," a statement from El Paso County Public Health said.
News5 also spoke to a sergeant from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office who was close with Hopkins and wanted to thank Cartledge for his run.
"It just makes us feel appreciated and to know that, especially an 11-year-old boy, that cares enough to dedicate that time when most kids want to play video games, are not interested in a whole lot of other things, but to take that liberty and go out and run just to honor us, I think is fantastic," said Sgt. Brian Erhardt, who had known Hopkins for around 16 years.
To visit Running 4 Heroes website, click here.