BRADENTON -- More than 60 people bowed their heads in prayer Tuesday evening inside the Manatee Performing Arts Center for children and their families.
They also prayed for the school grounds and facilities, for teachers and their aides.
They prayed for many more causes, too.
The prayers were part of the Manatee County Back to School Prayer Rally, a community service initiative organized by G62, a Bradenton-based nonprofit that connects faith-based organizations, ministries and other nonprofits.
The idea behind the rally originally came in 2000 from longtime educator Kaye Oakley.
"I'm thrilled. I almost cried when I heard that it was going to happen because we do
need prayer for our teachers, we need prayer for our students," the 59-year-old Ellenton resident said before the rally.
"Our children are so. ... They're living in a difficult time and they need to be surrounded with prayer."
Frank Brunner, who ran against Manatee County School Board member Karen Carpenter for a seat last year, hosted the rally.
"Everyone who is supposed to be here tonight is here -- including the Holy Spirit, right?" he asked the crowd.
"Gracious heavenly Father, we give you our praise and honor and glory and majesty and power. ... We thank you for the great God that you are. You are the most high, God, the one and only true God."
Beside Brunner, one by one, each person on stage stood up and prayed at the podium.
Manatee County YMCA CEO Sean Allison, for example, prayed for schoolchildren and their families.
"We know Father that, in our lives, we know children, we know families with terrific needs. We know children, we know families with terrific resources," Allison said.
"I pray tonight Father, that you would give us courage to do two things in our own hearts, in our own lives, in our own families, in our own homes and then others would join, too."
Several people raised their hands in prayer, eyes closed, as Allison spoke about Manatee County's hungry children.
"There are children in Manatee County tonight that are wondering what shoes they will have for the first day of school," he said. "There are children here in Manatee County that need people, Christians, looking after them."
Carrie Moran, 34, said she attended the rally after hearing about it last weekend.
"I don't think there's any greater way that we can get behind and support what the teachers and children are going to be doing this year than being there for them in a place of prayer," the Bradenton resident said. "Anything that I can do to help -- I feel like this is probably the most beneficial thing that I can do."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.