ELLSWORTH/FLORIDA — Not only are people around Maine remembering the life of fallen Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Gross, but so are folks across the country.
“At 7 o’clock this hour, that mile, everybody has one thing on their mind,” said Lt. Chris Thornton of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.
After being inspired by first responders and participating in 5Ks for them, Zechariah Cartledge, a 12-year-old from Central Florida, wanted to find a way to help first responders himself, so he found a non-profit organization, Running 4 Heroes, Inc.
“I had the idea to start running one mile in honor of every fallen police officer and firefighter who loses their life across the United States, so I started that back in 2019. Since then, I‘ve done over 1,000 miles for first responders across the nation,” Cartledge said.
On Monday night, Cartledge ran his 1,015th mile in honor of Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Gross, who was struck by a vehicle while investigating a crash last Thursday.
Cartledge shared information about the fallen deputy, prayed and held a moment of silence before being escorted by law enforcement in his own town for the run.
“We hope that lots of people can watch the run we did, so they can be inspired to learn more about him and let his memory never be forgotten,” Cartledge said.
Several communities in Maine came together for their own walks and runs at the same time to pay tribute to Gross.
“We hope that those runs meant as much as possible to the first responders up there and his family,” Cartledge said. “We’re glad to see that we had lots of support for the run.”
As soon as Jamie Birdsall, co-owner of CrossFit Acadia in Ellsworth, learned of the run, she said she knew it needed to take place in their own community and offered the facility.
“They’re close. They’re family,” Birdsall said. “Several of our members are in law enforcement, firefighters, EMT. We have several dispatchers, and they all come in here, and a lot of times, this place is a saving grace for them.”
Members of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, other first responders and community members participated in memory of one of their own.
“He was one of a kind. There’s not a lot like him out there,” Birdsall said.
Cartledge ran with a Thin Blue Line Flag, which he will send to Gross’s family along with a letter.
To donate, visit running4heroes.org.
The funds raised go toward sending flags to the families and grants for injured first responders.