Youth is at the forefront for this year’s Candlelight Stroll.
Twelve-year-old Maya Webster and 13-year-old Dylan Dietsch will each be in carriages to lead the popular annual winter stroll, organized by the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce.
As usual, thousands are expected to pack the streets of Old Town for the stroll on Dec. 1.
“We are thrilled that our community can keep the tradition of their beloved Candlelight Stroll this year,” said chamber president Minerva Ward.
As part of that tradition, the chamber board has selected Dylan and Maya from a list of nominees to receive funds raised by the Candlelight Stroll.
Dylan, a student at Crossroads Public School, lives with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
“We were pretty humbled. It was a bit of a shock,” said Matt Dietsch, Dylan’s dad.
He said it would be a “tricky evening” for his son, who gets anxious in a big crowd.
Dietsch said he’d be introducing his son to the horses over the next couple weeks to help him overcome the anxiety.
Dylan and his family helped to raise $40,000 for an inclusive playground at Crossroads in 2020.
Dietsch said he and his family would be using their share of the donations from the Candlelight Stroll to help pay for a lift to help Dylan get up and down the stairs.
Maya, who lives with juvenile diabetes, has been advocating for increased government funding for continuous blood glucose monitoring devices.
Her mom, Christi Webster, said Maya was “beside herself” with excitement when she learned she’d be helping lead the Candlelight Stroll.
And the excitement ramped up when she learned she could share her half of the proceeds with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a research group working on a cure for the lifelong illness.
Webster said she shed a tear at the news.
“It made me feel very proud to be her mom,” she added.
Jessica Taylor, the chamber’s event manager, said each recipient would get half of whatever is raised from the candle sales at the stroll.
Candles will be sold for $5 each from 2 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 1.
While Taylor could not recall how much the chamber raised last year, she said more than 3,000 were sold.
The stroll starts at 6:30 p.m. but the day includes several other events starting at the Niagara Pumphouse at 2 p.m.
There also are concerts by Shaw Festival performers, the Niagara Star Singers, Queenston Women’s Chorus and Salvation Army Band.
The full schedule of events is on the chamber’s website at niagaraonthelake.com/candlelightstroll2023.