EL PASO COUNTY — A 14-year-old from Central Florida ran a mile on Tuesday night to honor fallen Fountain police officer, Julian Becerra. It’s through his nonprofit organization called Running 4 Heroes.
Zechariah Cartledge is an eighth grader who lives in Winter Springs, Florida. To date, he has run more than 1,400 miles for those who've made the ultimate sacrifice.
His latest run honored officer Becerra who died from his injuries on February 11, leaving behind a wife and two children.
“I want every single officer and firefighter who passes away in the line duty to be honored,” said Zechariah.
He founded his nonprofit organization in 2019. But prior to that, his passion for running began by running 5k’s to raise money for families being helped the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
“I was a big runner. I loved running across my community,” said Zechariah. “As a donor, we raised over $100,000 which was amazing. And after all that support, I wanted to continue to help first responders from my miles, and that’s when we started our own organization.”
Zechariah says even though he’s run more than 1,400 miles for more than 1,400 fallen heroes, every run is different.
“For a lot of people, every single run is their first time watching it because that's the first time we probably ran for the community before. So that's why we want to make sure every mile is special,” said Zechariah. “When I’m running, I’m mainly thinking about the family of the fallen first responder,” he added.
Every run begins with Zechariah sharing a video and a few words about who he's running for, including officer Becerra.
“He lost his life after succumbing to his injuries he suffered nine days prior after he fell off an overpass while pursuing a carjacking suspect,” said Zechariah in a video shared to Facebook.
Then Zechariah says a quick prayer, and runs seven laps around the track at his school. He carries a thin blue line flag, and is followed by a police escort and often times surrounded by other runners.
When he's finished, he says another prayer then shares a moment of silence. He then sends the flag to the fallen first responder's family.
Officer Becerra’s flag had been sent to Chief of Police in Woodland Park, Chris Deisler. Deisler was the chief of police in Winter Springs, where Zechariah lives, prior to taking the job in Woodland Park. Zechariah said Chief Deisler will be the one to deliver the flag to the family.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to make sure they know that we pray for their family. It was a very unexpected loss for them (the Becerra family), and we're going to continue to pray for them,” said Zechariah. “I hope that this this run that we did can help them heal.”
Zechariah also began a GoFundMe page for Officer Becerra’s family, which will be up and running for two weeks. So far, it has also raised more than $2,000.
Running 4 Heroes has raised more than $1,000,000 for first responders, the families of fallen first responders and K9 officers in need of safety equipment.
Zechariah also told News5, that as he gets older and enters high school, he’ll be running fewer miles. He added, that he’s been growing his team of runners, and while he won’t ever stop running for fallen heroes, other runners will help carry on the tradition moving forward.
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