‘Big-Hearted Charlie’s’ legacy lives on at swim meet


Planet Swim Aquatics in Ponte Vedra held its annual summer championships last weekend and it was even more special than it usually is because it was sponsored by Big-Hearted Charlie.

Big-Hearted Charlie is an initiative started by St. Johns County Commissioner Krista Keating-Joseph following the death of her son while serving his county in Iraq in 2016.

Her son, Charlies Keating IV, or Charlie as he was known, was a Navy SEAL and after his death Joseph began writing a string of children’s books that followed the adventures of “Big-Hearted Charlie,” a fictional character who dreamed of being a Navy Seal.

“Anytime I can keep his memory alive I will,” Joseph said. “It’s nice to know that he’s still spreading his word.”

Charlie was honored by President Obama in 2016, but Joseph and his family continue to honor his legacy as well any chance they get through her books and by sponsoring community events, such as, the summer championships.

One of the things they focus on when they sponsor events is to make sure that part of the legacy honored is that of a respect and patriotism for the United States.

According to Joseph, one of the most touching moments of the entire event was when they played a video about a veteran on the digital screen overlooking the pool and she noticed everyone stopped swimming or what they were doing to watch the video.

“That meant a lot, because my son was like many of these kids and he trained for running, broke a four-minute mile and had dreams of competing at the Olympics,” Joseph said. “But then, one day he chose to follow another dream and serve his country. It’s important for the next generation to see and understand that.”

It is not the first time the family has been involved with Planet Swim, as Joseph’s daughter Ali and her husband Dr. Ron Joseph have been strong supporters of the programs offered by the facility and Ali has swum there for years.

“We’ve been sponsoring small events for the past eight years, but nothing quite like this,” Joseph said. “Planet Swim and the community there has just been such a nice family of support for her over the years, so it just seemed perfect.”

One of the special ways Planet Swim thanked Ali and her family was to have Ali’s teacher attend the event and present her with her high school diploma, since she missed her high school graduation to attend a swim meet earlier in the year.

“Ali and her brother were super close,” Joseph said. “When he passed away in Iraq, the only letter he had wrote was to her. It’s nice that bond is still strong.”