2nd annual 5K set for July 9

 THE SMILE — That’s what will be remembered most about Preston Peterson by his parents, Tammy and Tom. Entry forms for the Press On For Preston 5K can be found on the Facebook page Preston Fund Memorial 5K Run/Walk. (Star Eagle photo by Jim Lutgens)


Usually, Tammy Peterson is the parent who breaks down when thinking or talking about her late son, Preston.

Not this time.

It was the dad, the strong and stoic Tom Peterson, who got up from the table to compose himself as the Petersons talked about the second annual fun run/walk in Preston’s honor, set for July 9 during New Richland’s Farm and City Days. The Press On For Preston 5K begins at 8 a.m. at NR City Hall, where you can pick up entry forms.

Lyndsay Carlson, Abbey Holland and Cyndi Bartness, friends of the Peterson family, organized the first run last year to remember Preston and fund a memorial scholarship.

What does Tammy remember about Preston?

“His smile,” she said. “Just his good-natured, kind attitude. He really was just so kind-hearted and loving.”

“He would do anything for anybody,” said Tom. “But he couldn’t tell himself he was worthwhile.”

Preston took his own life Dec. 17, 2014, just months after graduating from NRHEG High School, and his family has had to deal with not only the loss but also the stigma that follows.

“There’s such a stigma with depression and suicide,” said Tammy. “You get cancer, you get diabetes, you get some help. So many people with depression don’t get help. Cancer can be terminal if left untreated. Depression can also be terminal.”

Born Feb. 22, 1996, Preston Robert Peterson was the third of seven children for Tom and Tammy, a quiet, family-oriented couple known to live life the right way and teach their kids the ways of their church, Vista Covenant, which Tom said has been “wonderful” throughout the ordeal.

Payden, 25, is the oldest. There’s also Parker, 23; Palmer, 18; Perry, 16; Paige, 14; and Porter, 12.

The Petersons agreed there will be no more.

“Guaranteed,” said Tom, who coached all his sons in youth football.

There will, however, always be a void left by Preston, who would be 20.

The Petersons said he was a normal, happy kid growing up, not exhibiting any issues until his freshman year of high school, when he struggled somewhat in math.

Classmates would say, “Hey, Preston! Can you help us with math? Oh, that’s right. You can’t do math!”

He went to girls’ basketball games and came home at halftime.

A successful athlete, he just didn’t feel like he fit in.

“When he was a junior, he came home and said he heard a radio program on social anxiety disorder,” said Tammy. “He said, ‘That’s me.’”

Medical attention was sought at that point. But it didn’t help his self-esteem, which spiraled when he dabbled in drugs, about which he felt experienced particular anxiety.

Preston started classes at South Central College in the fall of 2014 and things appeared to be headed in the right direction when, after a stumble, insurance issues forced Tom to bring him home from a facility in December of that year.

Tammy remembers Tom’s final words to Preston: “I love you. Everything is going to be all right.”

The Petersons had no warning what would happen in their house that night. Preston left no note. But he may have left a message.

Tom displayed a wristband he hasn’t removed in two years, a wristband with the well-known Serenity Prayer. Preston also owned one, though he didn’t wear it the last couple weeks of his life. Until the final night.

“He had put it on,” said Tom. “But I don’t think he did it for himself. He did it for us.”