MACON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A teenager in Florida has run more than 1,400 miles over the past few years on behalf of first responders killed in the line of duty. On Wednesday evening, that boy will run in honor of a Middle Tennessee deputy who died in a crash over the weekend.
Running 4 Heroes, Inc. is exactly what it sounds like — a group of folks running in honor of fallen heroes — and it all started when a Florida boy decided to lace up his sneakers.
In 2017, young Zechariah Cartledge ran alongside first responders in a 5K, which sparked his inspiration to run for and with such heroes. Then, in 2019, Zechariah — who was just 10 years old at the time — took it a step further by starting the Running 4 Heroes, Inc. nonprofit, and deciding to run a mile for every officer lost that year, all while carrying the Blue Line Flag in their honor.
Now, the nonprofit’s founder will run again for Sgt. William Cherry with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, who lost his life on Saturday, July 29 in an on-duty crash about seven miles from the office where he served for more than half a decade.
Officials said a 2013 Ford F-150 was traveling north on Highway 10 when it crossed the center line and hit Cherry’s patrol vehicle head-on in the southbound lane. The truck driver was flown to the hospital in unknown condition, but Cherry was reportedly killed in the crash.
As folks in Florida prepare to hit the pavement on behalf of the fallen Tennessee deputy, it’s a solemn reminder of the risks our first responders face.
“I guess the disheartening part of it is the fact that every single week, it seems like we’re introducing our mission to new communities because they have a fallen hero that needs to be honored, but we do know from the agencies and from the surviving families that that gesture of these kids taking their time to do this to honor their hero, their loved one, it really means a lot to these families, and actually, for a lot of the families, they say that it kind of helped start the healing process for them,” explained Chad Cartledge, Zechariah’s father and the chief executive officer of Running 4 Heroes, Inc.
Community members’ love for Cherry has been demonstrated throughout Macon County, including makeshift memorials and messages of support. You can also can also follow these links if you would like to order memorial trees or send flowers to Cherry’s family in his honor.
Cherry’s funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2 at Macon County High School. Following the service, authorities said they will escort his body to Gamaliel Cemetery in Gamaliel, Kentucky. If you would like to watch the escort, you are asked to do so within the Red Boiling Springs city limits or along Highway 52 East.
Meanwhile, Running 4 Heroes, Inc. said the mile-long run in Cherry’s memory — which will mark the organization’s 1,563rd mile, as well as Zechariah’s 1,438th mile, since 2019 — will take place in Winter Springs, Florida, at 7 p.m. EST Wednesday, weather permitting. No matter where you live, you are encouraged to join Zechariah by going on a one-mile walk or run to honor Cherry Wednesday evening.
The directors of Running 4 Heroes, Inc. told News 2 the reason behind the run’s Florida location is the lack of a Tennessee youth runner within the organization. If you’d like to represent the Volunteer State on behalf of Running 4 Heroes, Inc., click here.