When he wasn’t playing football or wrestling as a Valley Stream North High School student-athlete from 2006-2009, Joe Castrogiovanni would often head to Hall’s Pond Park in West Hempstead for some exercise.
However, one of his routine walks in the spring of 2009 proved costly when Castrogiovanni lost his class ring.
“The ring was always a little loose and it must have just slipped off my finger,” he said. “I didn’t notice it was gone until I got home. I went back that same evening to search for it but couldn’t find it.”
Castrogiovanni had no luck, but Robert and Grace Kopec did. Robert Kopec saw the ring laying on the walking path, scooped it up, and stuck it a drawer where it sat for more than a decade before the urging of his daughter, Lauren, and social media, played a role in its return to its rightful owner.
“I walked a few miles at Hall’s Pond every day back then,” said Robert Kopec, a longtime West Hempstead resident. “The ring was on the ground and there was nobody around,” he added. “Somehow the story came up in discussion during the holidays and my daughter took some action to try to get it back to the person it belonged to.”
With “Spartans” inscribed on the ring along with the name “Joseph,” wrestler and football images, and the number 57, Lauren Kopec searched the internet for Nassau County high school nicknames for a match. She then took to Instagram and sent a message to the Valley Stream North Spartans account which read: “Hello, I know this message is really random, but is there any chance you would have a roster from the football or wrestling team from 2009? My parents found a class ring…any help would be appreciated.”
VSN Athletic Director Michael Frazer received the message and reached out to former football head coach Tom Schiavo to try to track down the 2009 varsity roster. Schiavo, who has every team photo in his office, wasn’t in school at the time so he made a quick call to Elias Gaston, who graduated that same year.
“Elias knew right away Joe wore 57,” Schiavo said. “So at that point we knew who’s ring it was.”
The next step was fairly simple since Castrogiovanni’s younger brother, Eric, is currently a junior at North. Soon after the New Year, Joseph connected with the Kopecs and made arrangements to pick up his ring more than 11 years after it was seemingly lost forever.
“I was shocked to get the call somebody had the ring,” said Castrogiovanni, 29, who still resides in Franklin Square and recently opened his own practice as a clinical mental health counselor. “It’s a keepsake and I’m thankful to have it back,” he added. “It looks brand new and fits perfectly now.”