The Oklahoma City Thunder's hopes often rest on forward Kevin Durant, but the woman who raised him is spreading her own message of hope to people throughout the state.
“I want to tell people that we can continue to have hope; we can dream, no matter the circumstances we have in our lives,” Wanda Pratt shared in a Thursday interview with The Oklahoman.
Circumstances she overcame included childhood molestation, which she disclosed at the “Shine the Light” anti-pornography event on Tuesday at Wheeler Park, on the outskirts of downtown Oklahoma City at 1120 S Western.
While the NBA forward was holding court at a recent preseason Oklahoma City Thunder game, his mother was making news of her own just a few miles away.
Pratt, 46, known to many Thunder fans as “Mama Durant,” placed her prepared speech aside and decided to speak candidly to the crowd of about 150 people, telling them that she had been molested as a child. She said while the experience did not cause her to be promiscuous, it eroded her sense of self worth.
Some attendees after the event told Pratt they were grateful that she had shared her story.
“I think we all have a story to share, and it's really important to the individual when they share it,” Pratt said.
The NBA mom showed an “honesty” and “vulnerability” that made an impact on the crowd, one of the attendees, Eric Smith, said recently.
“I think it's more powerful when someone decides to speak from the heart instead of from scripted notes or guidelines that have been previously scripted,” Smith, vice president of campus ministry at Southern Nazarene University.
“I think a lot of people were touched by her words and inspired by her honesty.”
A story in Wednesday's Oklahoman about Pratt's comments received thousands of hits on the newspaper's online component NewsOK.com. And Durant sent out a tweet on Wednesday encouraging people to follow his mom on Twitter.
“Please everyone do me a favor and follow my ma. She's touching a lot of lives around the country with her story! Love u ma,” he said.
Pratt said she is new to social media, but she is aware that several people have reached out to her online to say they read the story.
Thursday, Pratt said she was touched by all of the interest in what she has to say.
“It really warms my heart,” she said.
She said she had shared her life experiences with her sons, but she has no plans to publicly disclose details about the abuse she suffered.
“I don't have a problem sharing my life experiences, but the details of my life are private,” she said.
Stacy McNeiland, CEO of the Oklahoma County Child Abuse Response and Evaluation (C.A.R.E.) Center, said that when survivors of childhood abuse talk about their experience, it can be freeing.
“It's a big step. It's a feeling of empowerment to talk about it and know that abuse doesn't have to identify you,” McNeiland said. “I don't know her, but I want to give her a big hug.”
More of ‘Mama'
Kadi Cunningham, Pratt's public relations director, said Pratt worked for the government for many years, but she always was passionate about spreading a message of hope to others.
Thursday, Cunningham said Pratt is now able to do just that by officially stepping into the spotlight as an inspirational speaker.
“She's Kevin's mom, and then she's Wanda Pratt. She is her own woman,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said Pratt is now on Twitter, with Twitter handle @MamaDurant.
She said Pratt also has a new website, www.mamadurant.com.
“Wanda has always had a great talent for inspirational speaking and has been doing it for several years now. Sharing her story and bringing hope to other women and young mothers is her passion,” Cunningham said.
She said Pratt has spoken at several different events, including the opening of Yousef Khanfar's book exhibit at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum, the Chickasaw Nation's Color of Harmony Women's Conference, a government fundraiser kickoff and many events for faith-based organizations, “with many more to come.”
“This greater demand for her to speak has opened up the opportunity for her to connect with her audience in new ways, such as her new website and new social media platforms. These are great avenues for her to share her message and keep her audience engaged in the different opportunities they have to hear her speak,” Cunningham said.
Jane Jayroe, author and former state tourism director, said she was thrilled when Pratt accepted her invitation to be a guest speaker, along with Gail Griffin, the mother of NBA star and Oklahoma native Blake Griffin, at one of Jayroe's Esther Women luncheons.
She said part of Pratt's appeal to audiences is obviously her son, Kevin.
“I invited Wanda to be a speaker because she has raised an outstanding son who became internationally famous playing basketball, and I was aware that she had done this primarily as a single mom,” Jayroe said.
On top of that, Pratt is authentic, likable and a person of genuine faith, Jayroe said.
“I was impressed with her humility, her kindness to others and her devotion to family. And she had a fabulous sense of humor,” she said.
Pam Kanaly, co-founder of Edmond-based Arise Ministries, said Pratt made an indelible impression on about 1,000 single mothers who attended Arise Ministries' Survive 'N' Thrive conference for single moms in June.
“She gave very insightful, practical tips for how to keep your children first during those formative years,” Kanaly said. “She's approachable, and she's believable.”