Wichita teacher, 5th grader help reunite class ring with owner after 20 years

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- While walking her dog along the creek near her backyard, Jefferson Elementary 5th grader Pamela Guerra of Wichita made a discovery.

"I saw something shiny, so I went to see it," Guerra said. "It was beautiful."

It was a little ring that had a blue stone and an image of a softball engraved on the side.

Little did Pamela know she had just found something that was invaluable to a woman more than 100 miles away in Independence, Kan. who thought the ring was gone forever.

Pamela stashed the ring in her backpack and took it to her teacher, Stacey Penaloza.

"She was showing it to me and I was kind of looking at it and I said, 'Do you understand this is somebody's class ring? You get this when you are a junior or a senior. This is very sentimental to somebody,'" Penaloza said.

Stacey asked Pamela if she could hold onto it during her teacher planning period so she could do a little research and try to track down the owner.

When Stacey sat down at her computer, she noticed the ring gave her two clues: the name Brandy was engraved into the ring along with the high school name, West Elk High.

She did a Google search and found a West Elk High School in Howard, Kan.

"I called the school and the lady was very nice," Penaloza said. "She said, 'I may not know who this person is, but I'm sure this is a small community so somebody will know.'"

Sure enough, somebody did know and within a couple hours they had gotten in touch with "Brandy."

It wasn't long later that Stacey received a call from Independence's Brandy Benedict who told her she hadn't seen the ring since it was stolen from her 20 years ago.

"We were just really excited to know that she would be reunited with it," Penaloza said.

Brandy was even more excited.

"I was ecstatic that anybody would try to return something that had been lost that long," Benedict said.

She says she had been going through a very difficult time in high school in 1995. That's when she received that silver ring with the blue stone and the softball engraving in it.

Shortly after getting it in the mail, she and her girlfriends went for a camping trip to Fall River. While there, someone broke into her car and stole the ring.

"I hadn't even had a chance to wear it," Benedict said. "So I was heartbroken that my ring was lost."

Months later a woman would call and say she had found the ring. But Benedict says that woman never returned it and so the years went by.

Benedict says given the already rough time she was going through, the ring had taken on a tremendous sentimental value.

"It may seem petty to some people but when you are a kid in high school, some things mean a lot," Benedict said. "I'm just so grateful and so thankful that there are still good people out in this world."

She says thanks to the people in this case, Stacey and Pamela, she'll get to share that ring and have it in pictures with her daughter. Oddly enough, her daughter is set to graduate from West Elk High School this year.

"You never know what something may mean to someone, as little as it may be. You don't know what they may have been going through in life," Benedict said. "To have it back means a lot. I want to tell them thank you so much."

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