Youngster runs to honor fallen officers

Published 1:26 am Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Zechariah Cartledge is going the distance to honor fallen law enforcement officers.

The 10-year-old fourth grader from Winter Springs, Fla., is running one mile for every fallen officer who lost his or her life while on duty in both 2018 and 2019. He is also hoping to raise $100 for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in memory of each fallen officer in 2018, which multiplied by the 150 who were lost, makes his goal this year $15,000.

“Since officers sacrifice their lives so much every day and keep us safe, it is the least that I can do,” Cartledge said. “I really want to support them, because they do so much good in the world.”

Cartledge is the great nephew of Andalusia local James Obrien.

Law enforcement has been very supportive of his efforts, Cartledge said.

“They have been really pushed by it, they are really inspired by what I do,” Cartledge said. “I was supposed to meet the sheriff today so he could show appreciation for what I’m doing, but I was sick so I couldn’t make it.”

Cartledge’s dad, Chad Cartledge, said that the community has been very supportive of his son’s efforts.

“With some of his runs now, the Winter Springs Police Department actually assigns one of their deputies to come escort him,” His father said. “They have the lights going and everything. I think they do it so they can be a part of honoring the fallen officers as well.”

Four times around a loop in his neighborhood equals a mile, Cartledge said. He currently runs for the cross-country team at his school and plans to start running in 5Ks and half-marathons. When he runs 5Ks he will honor three officers who have fallen and when he runs half-marathons he will honor 13.

To prepare for all of this running, Cartledge said that he makes sure he is very hydrated.

“This weekend will be a busy one for me,” Cartledge said. “I will run with the cross country team in the morning, run a 5K at night and then Sunday morning I’m running a half marathon. Right now my record time for the half marathon is an hour and 53 minutes. I also drink energy drinks to keep up my energy during the run, but not like five hour energy or anything.”

One thing that makes the running worthwhile is seeing relatives of the fallen officers reaching out to Cartledge. His father manages the Facebook page that posts videos of Cartledge running and he usually gets messages from relatives of the fallen officers.

“There have been a couple times now where in a matter of 30 minutes of us posting his run on Facebook, we got a message from the father of one of the officers or a daughter of one of them reaches out,” His father said. “They let us know that Zechariah’s run has given them some reason to smile. A couple occasions they haven’t even buried their loved ones yet but they reach out to Zechariah to tell him that in the hardest week they have ever had, his video is the one bright spot.”

Cartledge said that he feels proud whenever those relatives reach out to him.

“It makes me feel really proud for what I do,” Cartledge said. “It is really inspiring when the parents reach out to me.”

He said that this is definitely something that he wants to keep on doing.

O’Brien said that he doesn’t see to many 10 year olds doing the same things as his nephew and that makes him proud.

“Not too many kids go out and do that,” O’Brien said. “I am so proud of him. He is a really good kid. The community here has really supported him in his efforts as well. He went to the sheriff’s department and got some trinkets and coins to show their support.”