Grace College freshman Cassie Harris, Alaska, had an opportunity Monday afternoon to finally thank Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller for providing a flight to Washington for Warsaw Police Dept. DARE Officer Terry ‘OP’ Polston to visit her in 2005 before she underwent brain surgery. Polston died Dec. 2, 2008, after a six-year battle with cancer. Pictured (L to R) are: Dr. Dane Miller; Harris, holding a picture of Terry Polston; Mary Louise Miller; and Grace College Director of Applied Learning Randy Polston, Terry’s brother. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Grace College freshman Cassie Harris, Alaska, had an opportunity Monday afternoon to finally thank Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller for providing a flight to Washington for Warsaw Police Dept. DARE Officer Terry ‘OP’ Polston to visit her in 2005 before she underwent brain surgery. Polston died Dec. 2, 2008, after a six-year battle with cancer. Pictured (L to R) are: Dr. Dane Miller; Harris, holding a picture of Terry Polston; Mary Louise Miller; and Grace College Director of Applied Learning Randy Polston, Terry’s brother. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
WINONA LAKE – Life came full circle Monday afternoon, providing an opportunity for a Grace College freshman to thank Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller for answering her prayers almost nine years ago.
Cassie Harris, 24, of Alaska, was born with cerebral palsy. She had seizures ever since she was little. In 2001, she was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Until she was 9 years old, Harris and her family lived in Warsaw. She attended Madison Elementary School, and that’s where she met Warsaw Police Dept. DARE Officer Terry “OP” Polston.
Harris was one of the few disabled students at the school at the time. Terry had a special place in his heart for children with disabilities, so he and Harris became fast friends. When her family decided to move to Alaska, she and Terry stayed in touch.
“Outside of his family, I was one of the first people to know he had cancer. We had a joking bet that whoever got to heaven first got paid,” Harris recalled.
Terry was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002.
In August 2005, Harris went in the hospital in Washington to have brain surgery. It was the first of three surgeries she would eventually undergo. She stayed in the hospital 3-1/2 weeks, though she was supposed to be there 10 days. The surgeons couldn’t find out where to do the brain surgery.
Harris was having up to 75 seizures a day, she said. The steroids were causing her body to “Hulk” up, she said. She asked Terry if he could come see her. He told her to pray about it, so she did.
The Millers found out about Harris’s request and anonymously donated the flight, accomodations and other expenses for Terry to make the trip. A television newscaster later revealed to Harris who the benefactors were.
On Aug. 14, 2005, Terry got to visit and surprise Harris in the hospital. She had her brain surgery Aug. 16, and her birthday the following day.
“You guys gave me one of the biggest gifts,” Harris told the Millers Monday. Yesterday’s meeting was the first time she got to meet the Millers and thank them in person, having only previously spoke to Dane on the phone once.
“Sometimes you do it because it’s right, not because you want coverage to put your name in lights,” Dane told her.
She later told the Millers, “Honestly, I’m just truly overwhelmed to be just a part of what God has given you and I’m blessed to be a part of it. The gift was deep to Terry and I.”
“We appreciate that,” Mary Louise remarked.
“I’ve said over the years that the real opportunity is being able to share,” Dane stated.
Harris said Terry’s visit was that of a friend supporting her. It was humbling and not expected for the Millers to be so generous, she said. She commented that his visit was just what she needed at that time.
Terry died from cancer Dec. 2, 2008, but he had shared Harris’ story with his brother, Grace College Director of Applied Learning Randy Polston. Earlier this school year, Harris came to Randy and asked if he remembered her. He did, and asked if she had ever met the Millers. When she told him she had only talked to Dane on the phone, Randy decided to bring it full circle and have her meet the Millers.
That meeting was Monday in The Millers’ Winona Lake office.
As for where the “Circle of Life” takes Harris from here, she’s leaving it in God’s hands.
Because of her condition, Harris only completed school up to the eighth grade. She then earned her GED. While she is a daughter of a Grace College graduate and loves the school, she never thought she would be able to attend to earn her degrees. She was told she would be lucky to get her GED and flip hamburgers for the rest of her life.
She got a position at Women of Grace. They asked Harris to come to Grace to get her journalism degree, which she is paying for through disability benefits. She’s also majoring in Biblical studies.
She concluded, “I’m here for as long as God wants me to be.”