When he was 8 years old, Preston Robison lost his mother to a drug overdose.
But the 11-year-old has turned his grief into a mission to help others battling drug addiction.
For the past three years, Preston, a sixth-grader at Washington Middle/High School, has operated a lemonade stand and donated the money he earns to Harmony Life Center, a nonprofit that helps people with addiction and recovery through programs and services.
“I don’t want people to go through what I had to go through, losing a loved one, especially a mother or father,” said Preston.
But this year, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, he wasn’t able to run his lemonade stand. Preston, however, ended up making lemonade out of lemons in a different way.
He asked his grandmother, Rhonda DiBello, if he could put a donation bucket in her Washington hair salon, A Cut Above, for people to drop money into.
“I used to have the lemonade stand in here, and I’d sell cookies, too, but you really can’t sell lemonade during a global pandemic. So I thought this would be a good idea, and my grandmother was on board,” Preston said.
Last month, he dropped by Harmony Life Center on North Main Street and donated $611 – all the money he collected from the donation bucket.
During the time he was raising money, Harmony Life Center – which is run by volunteers, many who successfully completed recovery programs – was taking part in the Rock Community Challenge, an event where nonprofits raise funds and compete for prizes in the form of additional funds.
So Preston established a fundraising page on Harmony Life Center’s website. In total, he raised and donated more than $1,675 for Harmony Life Center. And donations are still coming in.
More than $20,000 was raised through the Rock Community Challenge, said Karen Bennett, chairwoman of the Harmony Life Center Board of Directors.
“We’re very overwhelmed that Preston took this project on. He is a really great kid,” said Bennett. “It warms your heart to have an 11-year-old kid who went through a tragic situation and wants to give back to the community and help other people get through their lives.”
On a table in the salon is a picture of Preston and his mother, Melissa Moeller, who lost her life on Feb. 13, 2017, at the age of 27. Preston decorated the pink donation bucket with pictures of his mother, glitter and colorful gems, and messages like “best mom ever” and “love you.”
Preston, who wants to become an inventor, plays saxophone in the school band and enjoys playing video games.
His grandmother is proud of him.
“I tell everybody he is my blessing for losing my daughter. He is amazing,” said DiBello. “He impresses me because he always says he never wants anyone to forget about his mom. It makes me feel good that he always wants to remember her, the good sides of her.”
He plans to continue raising money for Harmony Life Center “for a very long time.”
“I didn’t get the chance to grow up with my mom,” said Preston. “That’s why I want to help other people who are are fighting addiction.”