All of the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund recipients were young energetic sportsmen playing rugby. Some of them had hopes of being the next Springbok to rise from their community, some did it as a way of escaping and some just did it for the love of the game. Whatever level of rugby that they were playing, they all shared the same passion and were understandably devastated when it was the very thing that lead to their lives changing forever as a result of a serious injury. There are currently 107 former rugby players who rely on the Players’ Fund for support as they adjust to living with a disability, and this partnership is life-long.
Their stories are not dissimilar to that of Brandon Beack, a young man who also sustained a serious and disabling injury while practicing gymnastics in 2012. Brandon, with the help of a determined support base and an incredibly strong will, has pushed the boundaries, exceeded expectations and has his sights set on the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Three years after his injury (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 mentality aimed at extending the functional capabilities of people living with disabilities. Together with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) this biokineticist-run Neurological Rehabilitation Center is the first of its kind in Africa and has seen phenomenal results from all of those who have joined the programme.
The Players’ Fund teamed up with the Walking with Brandon Foundation and the SSISA biokineticist practice to host a series of two workshops on Saturday 28 October and Saturday 4 November. The aim of these 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 day; “The opportunity to expose our Cape Town based recipients to this world class programme was something we couldn’t pass on. 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 have had experienced and professional people holding their hands through this process.”
Henry Afrikaner was one of these recipients who shared his thoughts on the day; “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 Brandon – what a positive guy he is with his team and also everyone who was involved that day. I am definitely going to push myself forward to do more.”
Charles Oppelt, recipient of the Players’ Fund also highlighted that the workshop showed how important it is to be able to do more for oneself, as it makes caring for him easier.
The Players’ Fund would like to be able to host more workshops like this to encourage independence and bring the recipients together so that they can meet other people in the same position as themselves. Should you wish to support this cause, please consider donating to the Players’ Fund Rehabilitation Pillar and make contact with the office to see how to go about pledging your support for an intervention that truly can make a difference.