Standing tall after 10 years

The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund linked up with the Walking with Brandon Foundation to put on a series of Enable workshops for 14 recipients of the Players’ Fund. This all-encompassing event took place at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) on two days: October 28 and November 4. It was co-sponsored by the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA).

All the recipients of the Players’ Fund were young, energetic sportsmen who played rugby. Some had hopes of becoming the next Springbok; some did it as a way of escape from their ordinary lives and some did it simply for the love of the game. No matter what level of rugby they played, these sportsmen were all, understandably, devastated when rugby was the very thing that led to their lives changing forever due to a serious injury.

There are currently 107 former rugby players who rely on the Players’ Fund for support. This partnership is lifelong.

Their stories are not dissimilar to that of Brandon Beack, a young man who sustained a serious and disabling injury while practising gymnastics in 2012. With the help of a determined support base and an incredibly strong will, he has exceeded all expectations and now has his sights set on the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

In 2015, Brandon, with his father Mark, set up the Walking with Brandon Foundation, which provides a Therapy and Beyond Programme aimed at using state-of-the-art apparatuses and a training regimen aimed at extending the functional capabilities of people living with disabilities.

The biokineticist-run Neurological Rehabilitation programme at the SSISA is the first of its kind in Africa. It has seen phenomenal results from all of those who have joined it.

The aim of the Enable Workshops was to provide the Players’ Fund recipients based in Cape Town with an opportunity to explore their own bodies with professional guidance alongside fellow former rugby players.

Physical assessments and exercise sessions were followed by peer support and behaviour change opportunities as well as a nutritional session and a station focused on wheelchair skills. Gail Baerecke, general manager of the Players’ Fund, recounts: “The opportunity to expose our Cape Town-based recipients to this world-class programme was something we couldn’t let slip.

“Their bodies may be weakened, but it is up to them to find their limits and see how far they can push them. With the help of the fantastic individuals involved in the Walking with Brandon Foundation and the SSISA biokinetics practice, they had experienced and professional people holding their hands through this process,” she adds.

Henry Afrikaner was one of the recipients at the Enable workshops, saying afterwards: “I enjoyed the workshop so much. I can’t stop talking about it! Being able to stand up straight after 10 years was the highlight. I just want to say thank you to the Players’ Fund and to Brandon – what a positive guy he is – as well as his team and everyone who was involved that day. I am definitely going to push myself forward to do more.”

The Players’ Fund would like to host more workshops to encourage independence and bring the recipients together, so that they can meet other people in the same position as themselves. If you’d like to support this cause, please consider donating to the Players’ Fund Rehabilitation Pillar. Visit the Players’ Fund website at or call the offices at 021 659 5615.

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