A Corvallis 5-year-old who sent out a message in a bottle finally got to meet its recipient.
Eller Sullivan, a Muddy Creek Charter School kindergartner, got a little camera-shy when Desiree White popped up in a Zoom video chat on Saturday afternoon. To perk Eller up, his dad, Chris, turned on a Zoom filter to make it look like Eller had on goofy virtual sunglasses.
“I’m so happy we were able to find you,” White told Eller, both of them now grinning from cheek to cheek.
White and her husband, Ben, took an impromptu trip on Nov. 9 to Agate Beach State Wayside from their Toledo home to walk their three dogs. In a creek running parallel to the ocean, she said something caught her eye.
So she took off her shoes and socks, waded into the water and found something seemingly out of a fairy tale: a message in a bottle.
“Hi, my name is Eller,” the note said. “I am 5 years old. I live in Corvallis OR. If you find this please write me back. If you are stranded on an island I will send you a piece of paper and pen to tell us where you are and we will go save you.”
The letter didn’t have any contact information, so White posted a picture of it on Facebook. One of her aunts shared the post in a Facebook group frequented by thousands of Corvallis residents in hopes someone would know where it came from.
It turns out that Eller’s big brother, 9-year-old Ogden, put him up to it.
“One day I was just kind of sitting and I was pretty bored,” Ogden said. “People in my class did it, so I thought I could write a letter and put it in a bottle, too. (Eller) just kind of tagged along.”
The boys told their mom, Meghan, what they wanted their messages to say and she wrote them out in neat lettering. They put the letters in glass bottles — Eller’s was Jarritos brand soda and Ogden’s was from Pelican Brewing — and saved them for their next trip to the coast.
On Oct. 30, their dad gave them the perfect opportunity with a trip to Otter Rock.
“The boys brought their bottles because I think they wanted to get them out to deserted islands,” Chris said. “Honestly, we didn’t think anything would happen with it.”
Ogden threw his bottle in the ocean, while Eller chose a nearby river.
“I wanted it to go off far,” Ogden said.
“I put it in the river because I thought it would go faster,” Eller rebutted.
After a story about the mystery message White received was published in the Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald on Thursday, Meghan reached out to the newspapers saying it was her son’s.
Eller’s name and gender were wrong in the original story — he was described as a young girl named Ellen. Despite the error, Meghan said one of the boys’ former summer school teachers sent her a text after seeing the story and said she suspected the note belonged to Eller.
“He was so thrilled to hear that it was found,” Meghan said in an email. “A little excitement during the doldrums of COVID.”
Chris said, as he was putting the little one to bed after they read the story, Eller told him, “I’m so cool, I’m in the news.” The next day, Eller made sure to tell his classmates all about it.
“I hope somebody finds your brother’s bottle, too,” White told Eller during the video chat.
Ironically, Ogden’s note did include contact information. But he’s being a good sport about the turn of events.
“I thought someone would get it first,” Ogden said of his message in a bottle. “But I guess if I did it like Eller, I’d probably be famous. I think I was one watermelon short of a picnic.”
Nia Tariq can be reached at 541-812-6091. Follow her on Twitter @NiaTariq.