Chance meeting with officer inspires 4-year-old

Photo courtesy Cassandra Contreras


JASPER — Earlier this month, a chance encounter with an Indiana State Police trooper left a 4-year-old Jasper girl with a full heart, a big smile and a noble career aspiration.

Harmony Contreras couldn’t contain her excitement when she met Senior Trooper Philip Hensley in the parking lot of the Verizon Wireless at The Cellular Connection store on the city’s north side. As she admired his uniform, she bounced up and down with pure happiness — unable to string together a sentence when the veteran lawman asked her name and introduced himself.

Harmony has lived with epilepsy, a hearing disorder and speech and developmental delays for all of her short life.

She never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Now, she’s certain. She wants to be a police officer.

“To me, it felt wonderful,” Cassandra Contreras, Harmony’s mother, said of the exchange. “It was very nice of him to do that. And I could see that he might have made a big impact on my daughter and her future goals. So, to me, it’s quite amazing. We thank him for that.”

Sometimes, the little things we do mean more than we’ll ever know.

Cassandra explained that after she and her family left the store, they were drawn to Hensley, who was outside with his squad car in the parking lot.

She snapped a photo of Harmony and Hensley during their introduction that has since been stored in a memory box. That meaningful container also houses a cape from TinySuperHeroes, a nonprofit organization that empowers children who are overcoming disabilities or illnesses.

On the left of the photograph kneels Hensley, his huge frame dwarfing his pint-sized friend. The two sport matching ear-to-ear grins.

“To know that the few minutes I was able to spend talking to Harmony had such a tremendous impact is equally as humbling as it is heartwarming,” Hensley wrote in an email. “As a police officer, the role we have within the ability to be positive role models within our communities is one that should never be wasted and always cherished. We only get one opportunity to make a positive first impression on young people, and it is crucial that we do that as often as we can. Hopefully one day Harmony will be in a position to step up as a positive influence and a role model for young people she meets.”

Harmony goes to therapy weekly and visits a neurologist every six months, in addition to other treatments. As of now, her development is trending in a positive direction, Cassandra said.

Though Harmony hasn’t experienced a seizure since November, Mom hopes that one day, her daughter will outgrow her epilepsy and be able to live a life without seizure medication.

Before meeting Hensley, she never said anything about wanting to be a cop. Now, it’s her life goal.

“I’m supporting her to become that,” Cassandra said. “Even if things change when she gets older, it’s a story I can tell her when she gets older. And then, who knows? She might stick with it.”

Harmony wants to see Hensley again, and Hensley said he absolutely wants that to happen.

“He made an impact on my daughter,” Cassandra said of Hensley. “Of course, he made a good impact on her. And someday, she may be an officer. And to me, I just thank him for being generous and kind, and making that impact on my daughter.”

Cassandra lives in Jasper with her fiance, Hubert Fuller; and their children, Melody Contreras, 2; Harmony Contreras, 4; and Serenity Contreras, 5. Cassandra also has another daughter, Leanna Bass, 11.

Those wanting to follow Harmony’s life journey can do so on a Facebook page titled HarmonyStrong.

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