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CleRenda’s Calling


CleRenda McGrady is a woman with a purpose and it shows. The passionate philanthropist and leader of this month’s Women Who P.U.S.H. conference has made it her goal to help inspire women to find their success story

CleRenda McGrady is a woman with a purpose and it shows. The passionate philanthropist and leader of this month’s Women Who P.U.S.H. conference has made it her goal to help inspire women to find their success story

Helping Women Find Their Purpose Through Project P.U.S.H.

Text by Cathy Gordon | Photography by Miro Dvorscak

Stilettos. One misstep and you’re hobbling about like a newborn fawn trying to stand for the first time. But CleRenda McGrady makes it look easy, rocking a pair of red-soled Louis Vuittons as she greets visitors to her Sugar Land home. Not that grace in heels defines confidence, but this woman clearly has mettle. The kind that comes from an inner well-being. She has found her mission in life.

“I’m all about helping women discover and fulfill their passion in life,” says the certified life coach and best-selling author who has certainly found hers. The wife of seven-time NBA All-Star and 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tracy McGrady practices what she preaches through her nonprofit foundation Project P.U.S.H. (standing for Purpose-led, Unstoppable, Success-bound and Hope-filled) that helps women connect with their purpose “and create their own success story.”

Project P.U.S.H. hosts its annual Women Who P.U.S.H. conference at Houston’s Buffalo Soldier Museum on Saturday, Oct. 21. The event, blending speakers, panelists and interactive lessons, is designed to inspire women to pursue their life’s vision. Workshops help identify key factors that disrupt or limit advancement, providing tools to push through obstacles.

A certain 6-foot-8-inch tall basketball legend plans to be there, cheering on his wife. He’ll likely be grinning ear to ear.

“I can’t help it. Just hearing her speak, watching her do what she does, it’s just an amazing thing. She has a lot of inspirational things to say to the world,” says Tracy. “What really gets me grinning is looking to my left and my right and seeing my girls Laycee and Layla watching their mom. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.”

You needn’t look far to discover the seeds of CleRenda’s philanthropy. It’s rooted in her childhood. Her parents, now deceased, instilled charitable values. Her mother worked 40 years in ministry, helping the needy, visiting nursing homes with food, tending to anyone in need of a leg-up. “She taught me that a life of service was a life more important than a life of success,” CleRenda says, “and that’s what we try to teach our kids, too.”

Their sons Laymen, 11, and Layden, 8, along with sisters Laycee, 9, and Layla, 14, know that life’s ups and downs serve a purpose, their mom explains. “That’s part of their story. It’s part of everybody’s story. I’m a firm believer that your pain is part of your purpose. So many times the things that we go through, the things that pain us, are actually the things that shape and mold us to walk into what we were meant to do.”

In CleRenda’s case, little nudges of discontent eventually led to a full-blown epiphany and her life’s calling. “Doesn’t happen overnight,” she says, recalling how celebrity trappings and perks as an NBA wife left her feeling a void.

“It was the beginning of my birthing pains,” she says, “a little tap-tap that you could kind of ignore. You know how birthing pains are. They start off slow and not as intense but they start to grow. I was caught up in the comforts of life, in cruise control. But several seasons later, I had to take control of my life.”

Through Project P.U.S.H., this passionate philanthropist has helped women in a myriad of ways. P.U.S.H. has donated nearly $1 million toward efforts that inspire and empower women, including more than $500,000 in grants to Women in Ministry and Missions, $300,000 to refurbish two school libraries in Houston and $20,000 in scholarships to the Girls Who P.U.S.H. College Scholarship program, among others.

The foundation works closely with the Fort Bend County Women’s Shelter and domestic abuse victims, providing stipends to help women get back on their feet. “Can you imagine laying your head down on a pillow in a shelter, your child at your side? You could quickly lose hope,” CleRenda says, “particularly when you compound that with physical, mental and emotional abuse. So I want to encourage ladies and let them know that their current situation doesn’t have to be their final destination. I just really have a heart for these women who need an extra push, underdogs so to speak. It’s just a chapter in their story, not their whole story.”

Tracy isn’t surprised by his wife’s positive impact on others.

“This woman right here? She was born for this. I’ve seen all the times people came to her even way back and she uplifted them. She was always the one they’d call when they were going through a situation,” says Tracy, whose recent moving Hall of Fame speech referenced a moment in an elevator, pre-speech, when CleRenda lifted him up, helping him realize he deserved the honor. “We all have greatness in us. I think you just have to identify what that is. She identified that in herself and goes about it with great passion.”

In her book Push Thru! Redefine and Create Your Own Success Story, CleRenda recalls a card she received from her mom upon completing graduate school. “If you see a turtle on a post, you know he didn’t get there on his own,” her mother wrote. “Always give back to life the best you can.”

To that end, this motivator is always looking for new ways to get her message out. She’s working on a new non-cable digital platform/online television show, Conversations with CleRenda, that inspires people to focus on their purpose. “We are still fleshing things out, but it’s all about engaging conversations that allow other people to hook into that passion,” she says.

“I’m telling you, it feels good when you’re helping people figure those things out. It feels good to help that way.”

People have taken note of her good works. She was recognized as one of the “Top 30 Influential Women of Houston” and has been awarded a number of other honors. But she’s not looking for praise. Nor is her husband.

“It feels better to give than receive,” CleRenda explains.

When Hurricane Harvey struck last month they didn’t sit idly by in their high and dry home. They hosted a Labor Day barbecue for the heavily flooded Third Ward and Sunnydale neighborhoods, feeding nearly 800 people at the Lilly Grove Missionary Baptist Church. “We wanted to be part of an effort to provide an extra boost to the community that needed it even before that flood,” CleRenda says.

They’re also busy with The Tracy and CleRenda McGrady Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of children. Over the last 15 years, it has contributed more than $2 million to various charities, domestic and international.

One might wonder if this family has much down time? Well, there’s always time for basketball. Tracy often invites friends over to shoot hoops on his indoor home court. And his sons are naturals at the sport. “They’re all about the game. It’s in their blood,” says Tracy, a basketball commentator for ESPN.

He’s as natural at commentating as he is at playing the sport, says CleRenda of her husband. She describes them both as reserved and somewhat introverted at heart. “But you know, when you’re on a mission you can’t just sit back there and be this little church mouse, quiet and all,” she says. “It took me a while to figure out that wow, the one thing that I was scared to do, which was to use my voice in front of people, is the very thing that I was meant to do so I can encourage people to reach those goals.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing women break through their doubts and fears,” she says, flashing a smile. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

To purchase tickets for the Women who P.U.S.H. Con­ference visit eventbrite.com and search for “Women Who P.U.S.H. Empowerment Experience.” The Buffalo Soldier Museum is located at 3816 Caroline Street in Houston.

 

CleRenda McGrady and her Basketball Hall of Fame husband Tracy believe in giving back to the community. “It feels better to give than to receive,” says CleRenda, who helps inspire women to find their purpose through her brainchild Project P.U.S.H.

CleRenda McGrady and her Basketball Hall of Fame husband Tracy believe in giving back to the community. “It feels better to give than to receive,” says CleRenda, who helps inspire women to find their purpose through her brainchild Project P.U.S.H.

 

Push Thru! Redefine and Create Your Own Success Story, en­cour­ages women to push through fear, insecurity and doubt, and live their dreams.

Push Thru! Redefine and Create Your Own Success Story, en­cour­ages women to push through fear, insecurity and doubt, and live their dreams.

 

Tracy McGrady was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 8, 2017.

Tracy McGrady was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 8, 2017.

 

The McGrady family will be on hand to help CleRenda at the annual Women Who P.U.S.H. conference she hosts on Oct. 21. The children, all smiles, are (left to right) Layla (14), Laymen (11), Layden (8), Laycee (9).

The McGrady family will be on hand to help CleRenda at the annual Women Who P.U.S.H. conference she hosts on Oct. 21. The children, all smiles, are (left to right) Layla (14), Laymen (11), Layden (8), Laycee (9).


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