ST. LOUIS – FOX 2 has learned of a national effort to show Balko, a St. Louis Fire Department K9 that died in the line of the duty last week, will not be forgotten.

Early Sunday evening, Morgan, a 12-year-old girl in New Jersey, will run a mile carrying a firefighter ‘Red Line’ flag. Morgan just ran last Sunday night with a police ‘Blue Line’ flag to honor Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso, the 32-year-old Chicago police officer shot and killed in the line of duty on March 1.

Morgan is one of seven young runners from across the United States who run a mile to honor fallen first responders. They’re part of a charity called Running 4 Heroes.

Former St. Louis Airport police officer Bernadene Loemker, who is on the organization’s board of directors, knew Balko had to be recognized.

“Now, I can honestly say, I totally get it,” Loemker said. “I don’t think the rest of the world does, which is why it was so important when this happened to Balko that our organization honor him, because the bond is just incredible.”

Balko was trained to sniff out human remains. He was assisting police in the search for a beating victim in the vacant, condemned, former Famous Barr building in downtown St. Louis when he fell last Friday. No beating victim was found. His handler and the fire department were devastated at the loss.

“Just as you would lose a family member for his handler, Firefighter (Brent) Sevener, and not just firefighter Sevener, but firefighter Sevener and his family, because Balko went home with him,” said Capt. Garon Mosby, St. Louis Fire Department.

Running 4 Heroes young volunteer runners have run for 1,467 human responders in the four years since the group was founded by a Florida teen. They’ve run for 64 times for K9 officers. Balko will be the first from a fire department, according to Loemker. The red line flag from the run and a handwritten note from the will go to his handler.

Running for Heroes raises money to help the families of injured and fallen first responders. The group also helps buy supplies and safety gear for K9’s. Above all, the group sends a message.

“You will be missed but never be forgotten, and we don’t want to let Balko be forgotten,”
Loemker said.

Sunday, in New Jersey, Morgan will make sure of that.