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Thousands come out to Starke to honor officers killed in the line of duty

Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 6:08 PM EST
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STARKE, Fla. (WCJB) - The sounds of sirens rang out as law enforcement agencies paid their respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Krawl’n for the Fallin’ has become one of the largest off-road events in Florida to raise awareness for fallen officers.

“My younger brother was killed in the line of duty in 2009 in Charleston, West Virginia and we like to come to these events to help remember him and to keep his memory alive for everyone,” said Michael Jones, survivor at the event.

Survivors got to ride through the trails in a Jeep during the survivor ride.

All of the proceeds raised at the event go to two organizations, Concerns of Police Survivors, and the Off-Road United Foundation.

C.O.P.S. offers retreats to survivors at no cost where they can get counseling and peer support.

“We have people come to us two or three years after meeting us and they say you saved my life,” said Sara Slone, Communications Director for C.O.P.S.

About 385 flags were planted at the event, representing each officer who died in the line of duty in 2021.

13-year-old Zechariah Cartledge, Founder of Running 4 Heroes, is honoring those heroes one mile at a time.

“As part of his effort he runs a mile for every first responder who’s been killed in the line of duty,” said his father and CEO of the organization, Chad Cartledge.

Zechariah’s father said he started in 2019 and hasn’t stopped since, running more than 1,050 miles in 15 states.

“When he heard at such a young age how many officers, and even our firefighters, were losing their lives protecting and serving their communities, he decided he wanted to do something about it,” said Cartledge.

Event organizers are hoping to raise at least $80,000 to donate to C.O.P.S.

While plenty of people had some off-road fun, the reason for being there was never lost.

“To know that we’re truly making a difference and they’re still here and giving back, moves mountains,” said Slone.

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