Affton family honors child who drowned in summer camp by raising awareness for other families

It was a beautiful day of music, food and animals at a carnival taking place outside of the Apple of Your Eye Learning Center in Affton.
Published: May. 20, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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AFFTON, Mo. (KMOV) - It was a beautiful day of music, food and animals at a carnival taking place outside of the Apple of Your Eye Learning Center in Affton.

“Ever since 2 o’clock, people have been coming in,” said Olga Mister.

However, beyond the haze of bubbles and laughter is the legacy one six-year-old boy leaves behind.

“TJ, he was about fun, having fun and meeting people, and that’s what we’re doing today. We’re having fun and meeting people,” said Travone Mister.

TJ was six years old when he drowned at the Kennedy Recreation Center Pool, run by St. Louis County while attending summer camp.

His parents, Olga and Travone Mister, eventually learned his son’s camp was unlicensed, and there was only one lifeguard overseeing 40 kids at the time of his death.

“Summer camps are about to start, and we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Olga.

This is why family, friends, people in the Affton community and even some of TJ’s former classmates gathered today at this carnival, which was a celebration for TJ as much as it was a chance to educate families about how to keep their children safe while attending summer camps.

“There’s a lot of great summer camps out there, but you do need to make sure that they are regulated, they’re CPR trained and certified, they’ve all had their background checks,” said Elizabeth Ghiassi, Owner of the Apple of Your Eye Learning Center.

“We have people out here for water safety. We have people out here talking about CPR,” said Olga. “[We’re learning about] life jackets and the importance of the color of the swimming suit even, which is something I had no idea. TJ was wearing blue when he died, so there’s so many different things that we just weren’t educated on that we want to make sure other parents are.”

TJ’s parents have been pushing for leaders in Jefferson City to make it a requirement in Missouri for camps to be licensed and regulated.

“We want to make sure that there’s background checks. That there’s CPR training. That we are having an emergency plan. Things that are so important for children that they’re refusing to do on the county level and on the state level,” said Olga.

“It takes up a lot of time,” said Travone. “But whatever we have to do.”

With the legislative session ending and no effort made by lawmakers to regulate camps, the Misters hope, for now, this event can do some good in keeping children safe.

“They’re keeping his name up. They’re trying to make an awareness for other children so other parents won’t have to go through this. Other parents, grandparents, don’t have to go through this again,” said Valerie Walker, TJ’s grandmother.

“I would much rather have our kid here having fun with them. So, it’s hard, but it’s important to do because we have to spread awareness through community,” said Olga.