Last summer, 10-year-old Luca Fusco dropped an empty glass bottle of Coca-Cola into the Long Island Sound. Inside was a simple note, written in pencil and dated in the upper right hand corner.

Little did he know it would touch the lives of strangers and become the "gift that keeps on giving"— or floating, for that matter.

After spotting a bottle of Mexican Coke in his local grocery store in Stratford, Conn., he thought back to his 3rd grade art class “Message in a Bottle" project and was determined to send his own drifting into the sea. He wrote a note on a simple piece of lined paper.

“I wanted to see where this bottle ends up,” it read. He and his father burned the edges of the paper with a match to “make it look old,” Luca recalled.

Message in a Coke Bottle
Luca's original note handwritten on lined paper. 

So one day in late-August, Luca ventured out to the jetty near his family’s beach house in Stratford and tossed the bottle into the water. He hoped the current would carry it a great distance.

“I wanted it to go pretty far, maybe to Long Island... the farthest it could go,” he said, excitedly.

At first, the waves circled the bottle and brought it right back to him. Then he gave it a more forceful second toss, and it disappeared into the blue.

Four days later, Luca found an email in his inbox from a woman in Stratford.

Luca fishing with his father
Luca fishing with his father at the location where he tossed the Coke bottle into the Long Island Sound. 

Early in the morning on Labor Day, Nina Lesiga set off on a solitary walk on the shore when she spotted a glimmer of green along the high-tide line. An avid beachcomber, she has found all sorts of trinkets and treasures tucked in the seaweed and sand. But the bottle was unusual—sealed with a cork and with a note inside among sea glass and shells.

“I was waiting for it to move right before my eyes or something, like it was on a string or part of some trick," Nina said. "But the bottle stayed put." 

Nina had always dreamed of discovering a message in a bottle along the shore, but never believed she'd find one. “I’ve always thought, 'what are the chances'?”

Without a phone or camera on hand, Nina had no way to capture the moment. And she realized she did not want to open her discovery in solitude. She looked around for other early-morning beachgoers. “My first reaction was not to just open it, but to share the experience,” she said, walking over to a group whom she opened the bottle with. It became a moment of happiness exchanged between Nina and the onlookers—a crowd of complete strangers.

Nina emailed Luca a few days later, and he responded right away. While the bottle only travelled a half-mile from where he originally tossed it in the water, no distance could diminish his delight at someone finding it.

“In this electronically driven world, hearing about a boy who spends free time without technology is inspiring,” Nina said. She decided to keep the “chain of happiness” in motion. “I wanted to boomerang the happiness back to him,” she said.

She hand-wrote a second message and stuck it in the bottle alongside Luca’s original note.

Message in a Coke Bottle
Nina Lesiga's handwritten note that she added to the bottle before returning it to the Long Island Sound. 

Nina checked the tide schedules to determine when the water was receding, and the bottle was carried away once more. And then she forgot about it for awhile.

Then, a few weeks later, Dennis and Denise Eylers were walking along a desolate strip of beach between the Harbor and the Long Island Sound in Port Jefferson, N.Y. 

“We walk when the tide is right,” said Dennis. The couple has walked the same portion of coastline for decades. They comb the beaches for sea glass and valuables, finding the occasional dollar and even a $20 bill once. But that September day, nestled in a pile of seaweed, they spotted a Coke bottle.

It was full of water, but the rolled-up notes remained intact. He and his wife excitedly took the bottle home, leaving it in the garage to dry out. But even after several weeks of sitting soggily inside, the notes were still impossible to remove, having conformed to the bottle's curved shape. Dennis had no choice but to break it open, revealing Luca’s and Nina's notes.

Nina received an email with “Bottle” in the subject line. Attached in the message were scanned copies of both original notes. Dennis and Denise were keen on returning the bottle to the water once more, but October had rolled along with its impending winter chill, so the couple decided to wait until the warmer weather returned to send the bottle back to sea.

Message in a Coke Bottle

It was time to put the chain of happiness back in motion, but Denis needed a new bottle. He retrieved a “Share a Coke” bottle from his recycling bin, and tucked the three notes inside along with some sea glass. Tying a ribbon around the bottle, he sent it sailing into the Long Island waters once more.

“Right about the exact spot where we found it, we threw it back out in the new Coke bottle,” Dennis said.

Dennis has no prediction for where the bottle will end up next. For now, it remains lost at sea.

“The [Long Island] Sound has some funny currents, there’s some places where the water goes round and round in circles forever,” said Dennis, who has boated since he was a young child. Perhaps it will get buried, he said, or could pop up years from now.

“I think it’ll be found,” he said confidently.

Message in a Coke Bottle
The Coke bottle floating in the Long Island Sound.

After all, the bottle floated over 18 miles before the Eylers discovered it. Luca believes it could end up anywhere, and for Luca, it continues to bring excitement. For Nina, inspiration. She continues to tell the story to inspire others.

“Happiness can be found early morning on the beach," she said. "This is a story of how repurposing a Coke bottle connected strangers and brought happiness to many."

She argues that the bottle has taught her to dream bigger, in the same spirit that Luca had a vision that the bottle would be found.

Trish Fusco, Luca’s mom, never imagined it would have such a reach.

“I think it’s so cool that those ten minutes of making the bottle turned into a year of exciting things," she said. "It has gone so far. It’s the gift that keeps giving.

“He doesn’t realize how much joy he brought to adults. This lifts people’s spirits and gives them hope that things that you don’t think are going to happen can happen to you. He’s a kid, so he doesn’t realize all of the ‘trickle down’ effect.”