A seventh-grade girl in New Jersey is on a mission to support first responders and honor the fallen through the Running 4 Heroes program.
Twelve-year-old Morgan Blann from Brick Township is one of just seven children in the country chosen to take part in the nationwide program that honors fallen officers and raises money for their families. She and the six other child participants run a mile while carrying a blue line flag to pay tribute to officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Blann, who has done more than 25 runs since volunteering for Running 4 Heroes in August, ran in March in honor of Sergeant Christopher Fitzgerald, a Temple University police officer who was killed in the line of duty on February 18. She plans to deliver the flag to Fitzgerald’s family.
Blann initially got involved while raising money for protective vests for police K-9s. “I’ve had a passion for law enforcement since I was 6 years old,” she told Patch.
Blann has also run for several fallen K-9s. On March 12, she ran four laps around the parking lot at Emma Havens Young Elementary School in honor of St. Louis Fire Department cadaver dog Balko, who died in an on-duty accident on March 3 while assisting with a police investigation. Blann was joined by four of her friends, plus local firefighters, Brick police officers, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Officer Christina Casullo with K-9 partner Fiona.
“People don’t appreciate them [first responders] as much as they should. And they’re still out there making those sacrifices for us,” Blann said.
On March 6, Blann ran for fallen Chicago Police Officer Andres Vasquez-Lasso while carrying a photograph of him and the blue line flag.
“It just helps to be closer to my heart and keeps them in my mind throughout the run,” she told NBC 5 Chicago.
Running 4 Heroes was formed in 2019 by Zechariah Cartledge of Florida, who started running a mile for each emergency responder who died in the line of duty. He launched the organization with the help of his father, Chad. So far, Running 4 Heroes has raised more than $500,000 in support of the families of fallen first responders. It offers $10,000 grants to injured first responders, funds ballistic vests and emergency kits for K-9 officers and gives money to families of officers killed on duty.
Blann said she plans to continue running in honor of fallen officers until she reaches age 16, when young participants graduate from the Running 4 Heroes program to make way for new members. She hopes to attend the Academy of Law and Public Safety at Ocean County Vocational School, and wants to be a K-9 officer when she grows up.