CAMILLUS, N.Y. (NCC News) — Almost seven years ago, Aubry Panek opened a small candle store in Camillus. The store was created so Panek would be able to spend time with her young child. In 2022, Witty Wicks is now a household name in the Syracuse area, with hundreds of people flocking to the small store to purchase or refill their scented candles.
But candles aren’t the only thing sold in this quaint upstate New York destination. Witty Wicks also houses an assortment of different gifts and items for purchase at the store.
One small area of the store stays the same year-round. Right near the entrance, Panek has placed a small table of LGBTQ+ themed items. Some of these items include socks, plush toys and small signs to hang on a door.
For years, LGBTQ+ inclusion has been a focus on Panek’s business.
“It’s important for us to say for us to say this is what we stand for as a company,” Panek said about her goal for her store.
Panek’s connection to the LGBTQ+ community stems back to her personal life. She has had many friends and family members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and one of the goals of her life is to provide support for them.
One of those family members that identifies as LGBTQ+ is her 13-year-old son John Panek. John is a student at Camillus Middle School. At his school, John created and is president of a pride group.
“I think it’s really amazing for kids at that age to be thinking about the bigger picture,” Panek said about the students who are members of the pride group of the school. Panek said that groups like these are important, especially in these current times.
For one of their group projects, John’s pride group created posters detailing the different pride flags. The posters were vandalized by other students and complained about by other parents.
“It’s important for him to know that we will always support him and represent him in everything we do.” Even through difficult times like those, Panek still wants her son to know that she will always be by his side.
Panek will be a vendor for the CNY Pride Parade this Saturday and will be selling a special candle. Fifty percent of the proceeds earned by the candle will be donated to non-profits in the CNY area, including the Q Center at ACR Health.
“It’s just a great way for us to give back to the community,” Panek said about the purpose of the candle in her store. The Q Center provides support to LGBTQ+ youth who have been abandoned by their parents.
Panek hopes that by providing support to these groups and the LGBTQ+ community, she can help to create a better future for her son and all young LGBTQ+ people in the world.