PALM COAST, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - When Stephanie Winnek spotted a glimmer of light hit something along Cinnamon Beach, she had no idea she was about to be a part of a 4-year journey spanning more than a thousand miles.
"I could definitely tell there was something in it like a rolled up baggy and tied like a message in a bottle,” said Winnek.
The bottle was so worn her husband Steve had to break it open to get inside, but they discovered a lot more than just a message inside: there were cremated remains.
A small bag of ashes. A very strange find, the Winneks said, until they read that message.
It was a full page story about a woman named Cindy Rounds from Rhode Island. The story detailed Cindy’s battle in 2009 with mysterious stomach pains; pains doctors would eventually diagnose as cancer.
"March 2nd 2010 at 11:45, heaven gained a new angel,” the letter read detailing the tragic loss of the mother of 4 and new grandmother.
The letter went on to say Cindy’s kids decided their mother, who worked too hard during life to travel much, should get to see the world. So they put her story and some of her remains in the bottle and released it into the ocean off the coast of Rhode Island.
4 years later, it washed up at Stephanie’s feet, and being a mother herself she wanted to let that family know their mom had made it safely.
So the Winneks contacted Cindy’s daughter Athina who was ecstatic to hear the bottle had finally showed up somewhere.
"I didn't think we would hear anything,” said Athina Skyping FOX35 from her home in Rhode Island Tuesday. "So when I received the text message on Friday I was like, 'oh my God, someone found it!'"
Athina said she’s been texting with the Winneks constantly since they made contact and feels like they are a part of the family now.
Stephanie and Steve said Cindy’s story won’t end in Palm Coast. While they did sprinkle a small bit of her ashes under a palm tree, the family plans to package the rest, along with the note in a new bottle and toss it back out to sea on a boat this weekend.
Cindy’s trip to continue, wherever she ends up next.