Keith Chiles with some of his pole vault students [ MONICA BARFIELD | CONTRIBUTED ]
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Port St. Joe community rallies around coach and bus driver after heart attack

The $2,000 goal seemed ambitious to Monica Barfield when she set up a GoFundMe to help cover the medical bills of local coach and bus driver Keith Chiles earlier this week.

But two days later, the campaign had raised more than double that amount, and counting.

“Even when I started out with $2,000 as a goal, I didn’t know if we were going to reach that, and when I looked at it today, I was at $4,055,” said Barfield, a nurse practitioner who has been working with Chiles for five years.

“He’s just a really special patient, and a really important figure for so many in this community.”

Chiles, a bus driver for Gulf District Schools and pole vault coach at Port St. Joe High School, suffered a major heart attack in the early hours of Dec. 11, 2022, according to his daughter, Celeste Chiles.

“After the game (that Saturday night), some people talked to me and said ‘hey, Celeste, your dad’s kind of acting really out of character,’” she said, recounting the night of her father’s heart attack.

“… I took him to the hospital that night, and within 30 minutes of being there, he had flatlined.”

He has been in the hospital since, on and off a ventilator, and was recently transferred to a long term care facility, where they hope he will be able to rest and recover more comfortably.

Celeste Chiles said the response she’s seen from the community since has been overwhelming.

“He knows everybody and everybody’s family. We always joke with him, since every time he goes to the grocery store, it takes him two hours because he sees everybody he knows,” she said. 

“He’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet, and this whole situation kind of just shows that. I’ve been getting messages from everybody… I counted them one day a few weeks ago, and over 100 people had messaged me.”

Chiles’s coworkers describe him as a talented coach who is dedicated to the students he works with.

“He’s one of the best (pole vaulting coaches) in Florida,” said Track and Field Coach Keion McNair, who has worked with Chiles since 2002. “We can always count on him to be ready.”

“He’s a great guy to work with, and a great coach… He’s like MacGyver. He can fix anything. Like if I need a hurdle for an exercise, he’ll build me some.”

According to Barfield, Chiles’s impact on the community has been clear in the support she’s seen for the GoFundMe, which she said she hopes will cover medical and personal costs incurred by Chiles and his family.

“This GoFundMe has been kind of hard, a little bit, to accept,” said Celeste Chiles, “just since my dad never wants to ask for money… But I know he will be blown away. He’s just so humble… he doesn’t even realize how much he impacts everybody around him.”

“I just want to say thank you to everyone who reached out, to those who donated to the GoFundMe. This whole community has never let me second guess.”

Barfield said she will be leaving the GoFundMe page up indefinitely for those who wish to make a donation.

It can be found here. 

This report has been updated from an earlier version to correct the current balance of the GuFundMe  page.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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