Misty McFarlane had no idea what her practical joke was about to cost her.
A resident of Florida, she was celebrating her birthday in Winter Park last February. While dining at Devil's Thumb Ranch, it began to snow and the dinner party moved outside for a closer look.
"One of my friends from southern Florida had never seen snow before," said McFarlane, "so I took it upon myself to give her a proper introduction - by throwing a snowball at her!"
The consequence of this seemingly innocent action made itself clear as, back inside, McFarlane warmed her hands over the fire - and realized that her diamond ring was missing.
"My heart sank," said McFarlane, who proceeded to search for the ring, but no one in her party could find it outside in the snow. Cold and frustrated, they returned inside and filed a report with the staff.
McFarlane returned to Florida, certain she would never see her ring again.
An unlikely discovery
Fast forward several months to Easter weekend, when Shannon and Jeremy Henn were celebrating their wedding at Devil's Thumb Ranch.
The day before the wedding, while walking around outside, Jeremy Henn noticed a ring lying in the grass. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.
"We were in the middle of our wedding, he didn't think much of it," said Shannon Henn.
The next morning, the day of the wedding, Jeremy remembered the ring and handed it to his soon-to-be wife, saying, "By the way, I found this. You figure out what to do with it."
Understandably distracted, Shannon put the ring in her jewelry bag and promptly forgot about it. It wasn't until several months later, in July, that she came across it again, looking for something to wear to a charity event.
"It was filled with diamonds, and I thought, there's no way this can be real, it's probably fake," Shannon said, assuming one of the wedding guests had bought it for fun, lost it, and hadn't bothered to look for it. However, just to be sure, she took it to her jeweler to be appraised, asking, "Does this have any value whatsoever?"
The jeweler replied, "Shannon, that's all real diamonds."
Needle in a haystack
According to Penne Pojar, director of marketing for Devil's Thumb Ranch, it's quite common for guests to accidentally lose or leave behind their belongings.
"We find cufflinks after weddings, earrings, cell phones," she said. However, this incident was one of the first involving a valuable item lost outside the building itself.
"We have 6,000 acres," she said. "That's a needle in a haystack! It was obviously meant to be found."
Shannon Henn agrees.
"What I do for a living is look for a needle in a haystack," said Shannon, referencing her job as executive director for the Love Hope Strength Foundation, an international music-centric cancer charity. Much of her work involves searching for bone marrow donors for cancer patients.
"The odds can be really slim that you can ever find your bone marrow donor."
She marvels at the string of seemingly random coincidences that led up to the wedding at Devil's Thumb Ranch, and her husband finding the ring.
"Jeremy just walked into the right spot at the right time."
The right thing to do
Now that she knew the value of what they had found, Shannon immediately contacted Devil's Thumb Ranch.
"Our biggest concern was, how are we going to find this person?" said Shannon.
The idea of keeping or selling the ring was out of the question.
"How could we ever sell that ring, in good conscience, and know that somebody belonged to it?" she said.
Making the match
While the staff at Devil's Thumb attempted to connect the ring to its rightful owner, McFarlane returned to Winter Park for some summer fun and hiking. On a whim, she decided to contact Devil's Thumb Ranch, just in case anyone had any information about her ring.
A few days later, the staff connected the dots, and phoned McFarlane with the news that her ring had been found.
"My first thought was, are there people out there really that honest?" McFarlane said. "I couldn't believe someone was so selfless to turn in a diamond ring they found."
Lost in February, the diamond ring was returned to McFarlane on July 26, nearly half a year since it had been lost.
"We were so excited to give it back, it was obviously an important ring," said Shannon. "More importantly for us, we're big believers in 'everything happens for a reason,' and that good things happen to good people."
"I knew how lucky I was to have such a charitable person find my ring," said McFarlane. "I cannot thank Shannon enough for being so honest and caring. She is a true angel.
"It just goes to show that there are people out there who do the right thing all the time, no matter who's watching you."