PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the memorial service for Vancouver Police Officer Donald Sahota was underway, planning continued for the memorial to honor St. Paul firefighter Austin Smith.
Smith, 30, was killed after an explosion while he helped battle a large barn fire.
But Zechariah Cartledge, a teenager in Florida, honored both men in a special way. The 13-year-old is telling his 350,000 Facebook followers about Smith and the sacrifices he made for the small, tight-knit community of St. Paul.
Tuesday, the teen ran a mile in honor of Smith, jogging 7 laps around a track in his south Florida hometown while carrying a flag. He did the same for Sahota a week ago.
Following the run for Sahota, Cartledge posted this message on Facebook:
“To the whole family of fallen Officer Sahota and everybody with Vancouver Police Department in Washington as well as his wife and two children and the rest of his family we hope you all heal very soon through the passing of your loved one.”
He spoke with KOIN 6 News shortly before he ran in Smith’s honor.
“We carry a redline flag for firefighters and each flag is different even though it looks the same,” he said. “We send a flag to the family after the run. So after the run, Firefighter Austin Smith’s family will be receiving a flag and handwritten note from me.”
Since 2018, Zechariah Cartledge has run one mile for every police officer and fire fighter who died in the line of duty. His non-profit organization, Running 4 Heroes, has given thousands of dollars to injured first responders.
“We’ve given over $227,000 back to 28 first responders, total,” he told KOIN 6 News.
His father, Chad, who helps run the organization said his son’s “goal is to make sure these heroes are honored and the families can find comfort knowing that their stories are not going to be forgotten.”
And Zechariah also shared a message to the family of Austin Smith:
“To the whole family of fallen Firefighter Austin Smith, his whole department with the St. Paul Fire District in Oregon as well as his wife and extended family we hope you heal very soon with the passing of your loved one.”