ELYRIA - Ivory Oliver said she plans to have a good school year.
To a 6-year-old girl who will be starting second grade at Crestwood Elementary School in a few short weeks, having a good year means she will listen to her teacher and do her work.
"It will be easy," she said. "I like school."
But Ivory didn't talk much about school Saturday. She had just gotten her cheek painted with a flower and was waiting in line for a balloon animal. At least for the moment, school was the furthest thing from her mind, even though she and about 100 other kids were enjoying a neighborhood back-to-school bash in the front yard of a Bell Avenue home.
"I really like summer, but I guess I'm ready to see my friends," said 10-year-old Hannah Scaggs.
Scaggs was sporting blue and white balloons twisted into the shape of a crown. She got the idea from her best friend, Kaileigh Oldfield, also 10. Both Hannah and Kaileigh will be in the fifth grade when classes resume in Elyria on Sept. 6.
"Don't even ask me what my favorite subject is because I love them all," Kaileigh said. "But I'm looking forward to art class and language arts because I enjoy writing."
Five-year-old Jaeden Wells doesn't know what to expect when he starts kindergarten, but with his Lightning McQueen backpack in hand, the youngster said he will be ready.
"I just want to learn things I don't know yet," he said.
Nearby, Sarah George, the mastermind behind the party, and her husband, Curtis, were all smiles as they heard each child rattle off what he or she likes about school. Sarah George, 62, doesn't have any kids in the district - her two children are both adults - but that didn't stop her from wanting to throw a party for the kids in her neighborhood that was part a festive sendoff to summer and another part celebration of the start of a new school year.
"The Lord really put it on my heart to send the kids back to school in style," George said. "I work for the school system and I have a love for children. Really, I think you can say it's my passion."
George got the idea to host the back-to-school bash from her daughter, who held a similar party in Toledo for the children in her daycare. George said her daughter's idea inspired her to do something for the kids in Elyria.
"I've always given, but that just sparked something in me to do something more," she said.
She started planning a few months back, and in that time, rallied tons of support and donations. Saturday, the results of her efforts were evident. There was pizza, hot dogs, a clown, a pony, a DJ playing party music, face painting and balloon animals. George also gave away new socks and school supplies to as many kids as she could.
"She has a lot of good friends, and we were able to get a lot done," said Judy Jourabchian, who helped George plan the party. "Just about everyone donated their time for this party because it was for the kids."
Ivory's mother, Yolanda Ayala, was in charge of holding her daughter's paper and pencils as she played.
"This is a great thing for the kids," she said. "I didn't even know there were this many kids in the neighborhood."
George said she hopes to hold the party every year.
"For me, it's about helping who I can and not letting anyone steal my joy," she said. "I think this was a good thing today, and for that I am happy.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.