May 23, 2022

Running with a mission

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Zechariah Cartledge crosses the finish line of the Bartlett Police Week 5K on Saturday, May, 7.

Zechariah Cartledge kicked off the Bartlett Police Week 5K on Saturday, May 7, with a little star power and the familiar American flag in his hand.

Zechariah, 13, started the nonprofit Running 4 Heroes in 2019 and runs a mile every time a police officer, firefighter or other first responder is killed in the line of duty. He carries an American flag on the one-mile runs in his hometown of Winter Springs, Florida, and donates the flag to the family of the fallen first responder.

Zechariah doesn’t travel to 5K races around the country that often, but accepted the invitation from the Bartlett Police Charitable Foundation, which is giving proceeds from the Bartlett Police Week 5K to another nonprofit, Concerns of Police Survivors, or C.O.P.S.

C.O.P.S. supports the families and co-workers of police officers killed in the line of duty and has been a supporter of Running for Heroes. The Middle Tennessee chapter of C.O.P.S., in particular, has been a really big supporter.

“The only reason we are able to do check presentations and give these flags to families is because of our generous supporters, and that’s the reason we are here today,” he said.

The flag Zechariah ran with Saturday was given to the Bartlett Police Charitable Foundation.

He finished the 5K in the top 10, running with the flag the entire way.

Cole Harmeier

Sixteen-year-old Cole Harmeier finished in first place in the 5K, which started and ended at the First Responders Monument at Appling Lake, 3599 Appling Road.

While he dedicates time to running and his nonprofit, Zechariah also lives the life of a typical teen, going to public school where he makes As and Bs, playing video games, biking, and hanging out with friends.

He knows the success of his nonprofit could open doors for him professionally down the road. He aspires to be a pilot and has a flight simulator at home that he will probably get in every day this summer.

“When we travel it’s about the people, and I love that I’m making a big impact in the community,” he said.

Zechariah doesn’t have a first responder in his family but was raised with an appreciation for first responders and decided to use his love of running to help them. His inspiration first came from the mission and vision of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

His father, Chad Cartledge, is CEO of Running 4 Heroes.

“We really appreciate the Tennessee C.O.P.S. chapters. They’ve been really big supporters and we’ve done things with them and for them before,” Chad Cartledge said. “Ever since he started this mission, Tennessee has been, unfortunately, a state he has run many miles for. We’ve also felt a lot of love from Tennessee, more than from a lot of other states, so whenever we have the opportunity to come back here, we know it means a lot when he’s here, so we try to find the time to come.”

They were headed back to Florida Saturday night to catch a theater performance by Chad’s 10-year-old daughter, Chloe.

All proceeds raised through the event will be sent to Washington, D.C., where Bartlett Police officers will present a check to the C.O.P.S. Foundation.

Started in 1984 with 110 members, C.O.P.S. has more than 48,000 survivors today that include spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others, and co-workers of officers who died in the line of duty. It has more than 50 chapters nationwide.

Every year, 140 to 160 police officers die in the line of duty.

Bartlett Police Chief Jeff Cox sits in the dunking booth knowing he’ll soon be drenched.

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