Monday, September 13, 2021
When the 30 members of Basic Law Enforcement Class 21-03 graduated from the Valencia College School of Public Safety Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), they had more on their minds than just the rewarding careers that lay ahead for them. They were also thinking about the many fallen and injured first responders and K9s across the country who came before them, some making the ultimate sacrifice to keep their communities safe. To honor the legacy of those first responders, these recruits raised more than $1,100 for Running 4 Heroes, a non-profit organization started in 2019 by 12-year-old Zechariah Cartledge of Winter Springs.
Sgt. Gregg Wynn, CJI law enforcement academy coordinator, says, “to see a young man so dedicated to helping first responders and their families was a remarkable and moving experience. His heart is bigger than our profession and equally noble.” Gregg says he talks to all law enforcement academy classes about fundraising and ways to make an impact on their community. When he told Class 21-03 about Zechariah, they immediately wanted to help him and his cause.
In addition to receiving the check for the funds raised by Class 21-03, Zechariah spoke at the Academy graduation on Thursday, August 12, 2021. He told the recruits about his love for law enforcement officers and first responders. He spoke about the role of law enforcement in the community and how it makes him, and his family, feel safe knowing that there are people out there who are willing to help.
Recruit Class President Alexander Shaouni, who had the honor of presenting Zechariah with a check for the money Class 21-03 raised, says, “he’s [Zechariah’s] constantly giving to the community and is so passionate about our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, so we thought it would be nice to support Running 4 Heroes because they offer so much support to us.”
Zechariah started Running 4 Heroes after he ran in a 5K to honor the first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, which happened several years before he was even born. Combining his love of running and his respect for those who serve our community, Zechariah then pledged that he would raise money for fallen law enforcement officers and their families by running a mile for every first responder who died in the line of duty. Since starting the organization with his father in 2019, Zechariah has run nearly 1,000 miles. With each mile he runs, Zechariah carries a flag that he then mails to the family of the fallen officer along with a letter of support.
This donation to Running 4 Heroes isn’t the first time a Basic Law Enforcement Class has helped people in need. Earlier this year, Class 20-05 raised funds to help a classmate injured in a motorcycle crash and, in 2019, Class 19-03 raised funds to help fallen Orlando Police Officer Kevin Valencia.