JACKSON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) – Three red cardinals are perched below a bench with three faces engraved on the front. The red wings flapping are a sign of strength and rest for the three young men who lost their lives.

Dawson Brown, Richie Mays Jr. and Kole Sova died after being exposed to carbon monoxide inside their camper at the Faster Horses musical festival in 2021. All three were Michigan Center Cardinals.

“It’s hard to explain it because it is so surreal,” said Jerry Kova.

Jerry and Meeka Sova are Kole’s parents. Inside their home, that cardinal strength is on full display. It’s a testament to a community that’s supported them every step of the way.

“We see people at Meijer. We see people when we are out shopping, and they ask us how we are doing even you know to this day,” said Jerry Sova.

Support also comes from Richie and Dawson’s families, as well as from their two friends who miraculously survived that day.

“We kind of look to them for strength too.  I mean it’s not just Richie, Dawson and Kole. It’s Rayfield and Kirk too,” said Kole’s mom, Meeka Sova.

The pain never fully leaves. So, Jerry and Meeka are doing what they can to try and make sure this never happens again. They recently started a non-profit called ‘For the Boys’. They’re working to educate younger people on the dangers of carbon monoxide. They even plan to hand out detectors at large events this summer.

“Our focus right now is rural campgrounds. You know people that use generators but at some point, I envision us sometime expanding to even home awareness,” said Jerry Sova.

So far, they’ve raised more than $13,000. Jerry says Kole would be proud of their strength, and he would have done the same for his friends and his community.

“If he was here he’d be right next to us doing it and if he survived, he’d be doing the same thing we are doing. There is no doubt.”

A symbol of cardinal strength that they know is just getting started.

“We stay strong for each other. When one’s weak the other one tries to stay strong.”

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