Return to story
Dana Brito ties a personal note written by her son. The note includes a prayer and invitation to visit Hunter's church.
Hunter Brito, 8, tosses a bottle into the Potomac River across the street from his home in Colonial Beach.
Hunter has tossed about 20 bottles bearing his
Eight-year-old Hunter Brito and his mother, Dana, prepare bottles to toss into the river bearing notes
Hunter personally signs each note before placing it
By CATHY DYSON
An 8-year-old's desire to share a message
Hunter Brito, a third-grader at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Fredericksburg, has a waterfront view from his home in Colonial Beach.
Maybe that's why he decided to send a "prayer in a bottle." He really can't remember why he felt so inspired, but in early March he started walking across the street and tossing bottles into the choppy waters of the Potomac River.
He and his mother, Dana, wrote a message, which she typed and printed. She also bought message-in-a-bottle kits, available at party stores, that contained sky-blue plastic bottles, mini skateboards, rubber shells and an invitation.
In the note, which is dabbed with a wet tea bag, then crumpled, to look old and weathered, Hunter says he enjoys spending time at the beach with his dog, Bailey.
He includes a poem his mother helped him write, in which he hopes whoever finds the bottle will "know how much someone cares."
It continues: "With my prayer to bring you peace, I asked Jesus to care for you, to help all worries cease."
Hunter invited the recipient to church, any Sunday, at New Life Ministries in Colonial Beach. He suggested the person RSVP "to the Lord."
He ended with his mother's cellphone number and that he "would love [to] hear that you found my bottle!"
Denise Marth, pastor of Hunter's church, is always challenging the congregation to think of creative ways to invite people to church.
She thought Hunter's approach was great because it didn't offend people, and it gave even shy people a chance to share the Gospel.
"It's a very precious thing, and it shows a caring heart," she said.
Hunter currently is tossing a bottle each evening, for a total of about 20 so far. One was found by a grandmother near Dockside Restaurant, which is within walking distance of Hunter's home.
He was excited, but wished the bottle had bobbed a little farther.
"For some reason, he believes he will be getting calls from the other side of the world," his mother joked.
As the mission has evolved, the Britos, including father Joe, have set aside time each evening for Hunter to get the messages ready. They've helped him roll up the paper like a scroll and tie it with twine. They've also doled out a dollar bill for each bottle--at Hunter's suggestion--in hopes of catching the eye of a beachcomber.
Then dad has walked to a nearby pier with Hunter, or Mom, who doesn't like heights, has strolled through the sand with him. More often than not, Hunter has stopped to look at driftwood and shells, draw a line in the sand with a stick or point out a beach bird.
The time together has been an added benefit, said his mom, who would be thrilled if Hunter's "ministry" helped one person.
She travels a lot for her job with a Dahlgren defense contractor, and her husband commutes daily to his work as a printer in Alexandria.
They've lived across the street from the river for two years, but haven't really had time to take advantage of their waterfront access.
They make it now.
"It's really kind of forced us to have some downtime and just chill out and spend time together as a family," Dana said.
The mother realizes environmentalists might not be thrilled that her son is tossing plastic into the water every night. So Hunter, who has already picked up beach trash with Cub Scout Den 38 from King George County, and his parents will regularly scoop up litter others have left behind.
His mother hopes that will square them with the universe.
The Britos also may fill several bottles at once and drive to other places in the region to launch them.
"Maybe they'll end up somewhere else, other than Colonial Beach," Dana said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Hunter Brito's mother, Dana, started a website called hismessageinabottle.com about Hunter's mission to reach others through his "prayer in a bottle." She hopes to keep a journal that lists when each bottle was launched and if it was found.
Cliff Buffington is a Kentucky man who's been featured in The Free Lance-Star several times for his knack at finding messages in bottles. One came from a former Fredericksburg couple who, on their honeymoon in 1999, tossed a bottle from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Buffington found it eight years later along the shoreline of the Turks and Caicos islands, about 550 miles southeast of Miami.
Buffington is hoping to make a documentary, called "Archives of the Sea," about the practice of sending messages in bottles, which goes back more than 2,000 years. More information is available on his website, messageina bottlehunter.wordpress .com.