But that’s how old Preston Bober was when his father, Jon Bober, only 39 , died from heart disease earlier this year. After losing his father, Preston, a third-grader at Grigsby Intermediate School in Carlisle, could have been mad at the world, hid in his bedroom or crawled under a rock.
Instead, he chose to paint heart rocks.
“Makes sense,” said his grandmother, Judy Bober. “That’s how he thinks.”
Preston, now 8, is on a heartfelt mission to raise awareness and funds for the American Heart Association by selling hand-painted rocks at the Butler/Warren County Heart Walk on Sept. 30. For weeks Preston has been decorating and painting rocks in hopes he can help others who suffer from heart disease.
MORE: Madison student joins efforts to improve school security
“Happy and healthy lives,” Preston said, sounding like a public service announcement.
His family and friends have joined his crusade, and after a recent painting party, more than 50 rocks are ready to be sold.
“A wonderful example of giving back,” is how Heart Walk chairman Bob Fairchild described Preston. “I think we all can learn a lesson from this young boy, who is doing something so positive in the aftermath of a tragic loss.”
Stephanie Russell, 33, Preston’s mother, said her ex-husband was extremely proud of their son, and that emotion shines brighter today.
“It blows me away, it really does,” Russell said. “If Jon was looking down right now, he would be so happy about the amazing boy we raised. He makes me so proud because he isn’t thinking of just himself; he’s thinking of other people. A lot of people have told me that he has a real old soul because he’s so much mature than a typical 8-year-old child.”
As Russell sat on Bober’s living room couch, tears streamed down her face, and that obviously concerned Preston.
She comforted her son by saying: “You make me so happy. These are happy tears.”
His grandmother added: “I’m always amazed by Preston. He thinks so much older than he is. He processes and he knows why he’s doing this. I am happy God has given him a focus out of the sadness.”
The entire Bober family has suffered sadness.
Judy Bober has buried two of her three children. Her middle child, Joey Bober, died on Jan. 11, 2016, after losing a battle with addictions and depression. He lived in Eugene, Ore., since he was 19, and one day called his mother with this numbing news: “I need to come home.”
MORE: Once thought to have died at sea, Butler County veteran serves 3 wars
The 35-year-old explained his mental state of mind to his family, what his mother described as “the horror that his life was.”
He completed a 30-day rehabilitation program in California, then moved back to Oregon because his employer had saved his job until he was clean. But he relapsed and used canned air to “stop thinking,” his mother said. He was sent home from work, stopped at a hardware store, bought another can, and he was dead a few hours later.
Then, less than 15 months, his brother Jon Bober was dead.
Now Preston — being raised without his biological father and uncle — is carrying his family’s legacy. That’s a lot for an 8-year-old boy. He’s already dreaming big. He wants to become a pediatrician.
When he celebrated his eighth birthday last month, he took most of the money he received, and deposited it into his college fund.
We all should invest in kids like Preston Bober.
HOW TO GO
What: Butler/Warren Heart Walk, presented by Premier Health
When: 10 a.m. Sept. 30
Where: Walking path at Atrium Medical Center. Walkers can set their own distance on the 1.3-mile, family and dog friendly course. Walkers can expect free health screenings offered by Premier Health, a variety of vendors, and a special pet area for participants to bring their dogs.
More information: Call Stephanie Anderson at 513-842-8894
Donations to Preston's team: www2.heart.org/goto/teamprestonfortheheart