Supporters rally for anchor J.C. Hayward, who has been off the air at WUSA (Channel 9) since Oct. 1, when she was named in a lawsuit that alleges a contracting scam at a D.C. public charter school. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Two dozen people gathered on a sidewalk in Northwest Washington on Thursday night to show support for suspended television news anchor J.C. Hayward and to call for her return to her station.

Hayward, a 42-year veteran of WUSA (Channel 9), has not appeared on air since Oct. 1, when she was named in a lawsuit alleging that the former managers of Options Public Charter School had developed a contracting scheme that diverted millions of dollars to two for-profit companies.

Friends and supporters who gathered outside WUSA’s offices Thursday prayed and sang, and said there’s no way Hayward — who has frequently volunteered for and donated to local charities — would have knowingly been involved in anything inappropriate.

“The charges against J.C. do not match the J.C. that we know. J.C. has always given,” said Norma Stewart, who said she has been a friend of Hayward’s for decades.

Hayward allegedly signed key documents in her role as the chairwoman of the Options board, according to the District’s attorney general. She also helped incorporate one of the for-profit companies and received payment from that company, according to court records.

She has not been criminally charged, and her attorney has maintained that she knew nothing of the alleged scheme and received only negligible compensation.

Hayward is on leave pending further investigation, according to WUSA officials. “JC is a leader in the community and has been a mentor to young people aspiring to work in TV for decades. All of us here at WUSA are hoping for a speedy resolution to these legal proceedings,” WUSA General Manager Mark Burdett said.

Hayward has emceed countless galas to raise funds for Washington area charities and has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and Arena Stage.

She is the vice president of media outreach for WUSA and has anchored the noontime news broadcast. She told viewers last year that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, then publicly shared her battle with the illness. She said it was an effort to persuade more women to get mammograms and do monthly self-exams.

“This is just another mountain she’s going to climb,” her friend Tina Wright said of the Options allegations. Wright said she has known Hayward since they were college classmates in 1962. “She’s going to come out of this victorious.”

The small crowd, holding flashlights instead of candles, sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” and pledged to pray each day at noon for Hayward’s return to the air.

Rocky Twyman, who organized the event, is well-known for his faith in the power of prayer. He made national headlines during the summer of 2008, when he prayed at gas stations asking God to bring down spiking fuel prices.

On Thursday evening, Twyman told the crowd not to be discouraged by the small turnout. “The Bible says a lot of miracles, they come from prayer and fasting,” Twyman said. “The Bible says you don’t need a whole lot of people.”

Hayward had nothing to do with organizing the demonstration, her friends said. Hayward has declined interview requests. Her attorney, Jeffrey S. Jacobovitz, said Hayward has received many kind calls from strangers, and “it’s been extremely gratifying and heartwarming to know that many people love and support her.”

Jacobovitz is seeking to have Hayward removed from the lawsuit. A judge is scheduled to consider that request at a hearing Dec. 10.