Brandon Beack was a promising gymnast but broke his neck and is now paralysed from the chest down; he has evolved his dreams to now become a para-athlete.
Photo Cred: Brandon Beack | Supplied

Brandon Beack was a promising gymnast but broke his neck and is now paralysed from the chest down; he has now expanded his dreams to becoming a para-athlete.


Cape Town, South Africa (09 December 2020) – Sometimes in life, our dreams won’t come true because our circumstances change, but we should never give those dreams up, we should just evolve them. That is precisely what Brandon Beack did after he became paralysed.

Eight years ago Beack dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast. That all changed after he broke his neck in a gymnastics accident. The accident left him paralysed from the chest down. He says he was left with nothing, not even the ability to brush his own teeth.

Whilst Brandon was training, he lost concentration, and he fell off the parallel bars, missing the safety mats and landing on his head. He broke his neck at C6/ C7 spinal motion vertebrae and was left instantly paralysed from the shoulders down. After 10 weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, the doctors told Brandon that he would be paralysed for the rest of his life and would not recover any further.

Following this diagnosis, the Beack family struggled to find an affordable outpatient facility that met Brandon’s rehabilitation needs. There were very few financially accessible outpatient facilities in South Africa that provided neurological rehabilitation, and the Beacks ended up investing everything they had into getting Brandon to the Shepherd Centre in the USA.

This was a turning point in their lives. Brandon benefitted tremendously from the medical expertise, and the advanced rehabilitative technology and equipment helped him make a remarkable recovery. He returned to South Africa with a new mindset, determined to make the standard of medical care that he received accessible to South Africans who needed it the most. In 2015 the Walking with Brandon Foundation was founded.

“Fewer than 20% of South Africans are able to afford medical aid, which means that more than 80% of the population rely on government funding for their healthcare needs,” explains Brandon. “With very little access to long-term rehabilitation, few people are able to make significant recovery following an injury, and the sad reality is that many remain confined to their homes – unemployed and with low levels of physical activity.”

The Walking with Brandon Foundation offers advanced outpatient rehabilitation to individuals with neurological conditions and physical disabilities.

“Our programmes offer an all-inclusive and holistic approach to therapy by offering motivation, help and guidance through a peer support programme. It is also a multidisciplinary facility for clients to have access to biokinetics, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists,” explains Brandon. The foundation is the first of its kind to offer these specialised facilities and services at an affordable cost in South Africa.

In 2018 The Walking with Brandon Foundation was a finalist at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards. It was awarded R350 000 in seed funding which was used to further establish the foundation and create awareness around the work that they do.

Brandon Beack was a promising gymnast but broke his neck and is now paralysed from the chest down; he has evolved his dreams to now become a para-athlete.
Photo Cred: Brandon Beack | Supplied

This year they received a further R300 000 from the SAB Foundation COVID 19 Relief Fund, which was set up to assist SAB Foundation beneficiaries whose businesses were severely impacted by the lockdown. These funds enabled them to pay for their operational expenses and keep the doors open during the pandemic.

“The SAB Foundation has assisted us in so many ways, not just financially but also with their mentorship programme,” says Brandon. “Our mentor was and still is, our rock for advice and guidance whenever we need it. The use of the legal team and the guidance and funding for the redesign of our website and social media has been really beneficial, improving our brand image and public relations with different forms of media.”

The SAB Foundation’s support made it possible for the Walking with Brandon Foundation to find their own premises and develop their own team. Currently, they employ 11 employees, including five bio kineticists and two interns, one physiotherapist, one occupational therapist, one speech therapist and one administrator. They recently also increased their executive board to include a PR and media executive.

Eight years after his accident, Brandon is slowly adapting to his new life as an individual with a disability. He says that his family and friends have been the greatest support structure in his life, and his disability has forced him to look at life differently by appreciating the small things he took for granted before his accident.

“The past few years have been the toughest years to date,” he explains. “I lost my independence and was reliant on a caregiver to do everything for me – dress me, feed me, assist me with my toilet routine and drive me around.”

Brandon is also constantly learning how to tackle the issues that come with disability.

“My family had to move to a new house to accommodate my wheelchair, as I needed a single level house so I could move around,” he says. “I drive a car with hand controls and looking for disabled parking bays is always a challenge.”

Even though Brandon’s life took an unexpected turn, he is still very positive about life and continues to train on a normal basis to help him recover further. He constantly sets goals for himself to tackle each week and is planning on competing at the Paralympics. Brandon is also a motivational speaker and travels locally, inspiring people by sharing his story that he hopes will motivate other people not to give up.

“People living with disabilities are not all sob stories and pity parties, they are human beings with dreams and aspirations. I am grateful to organisations such as the SAB Foundation who give us the freedom to grow as individuals and entrepreneurs, and all we ask for is an opportunity just like everyone else,” he concludes.

His dream looked like it would never become a reality, but Brandon refused to let his changed circumstance destroy his dream. Instead, he started working hard and evolved his dream. Today he dreams of wearing green and gold, becoming a South African Paralympian.

It is still the same dream; it is just a little different. Despite its difference, Brandon has worked just as hard to make it a reality.

“I never gave up. No matter how tough times get or how hard life knocks you down. All you can do is pick yourself back up again and fight on.”

Photo Credit: Brandon Beack | Supplied – Andries Kruger

Sources: Brandon Beack
Don’t ever miss the Good Things. Download the Good Things Guy App now on Apple or Google
Have something to add to this story? Please share it in the comments or follow GoodThingsGuy on Facebook & Twitter to keep up to date with good news as it happens or share your good news with us by clicking here
Click the link below to listen to the Good Things Guy Podcast, with Brent Lindeque – South Africa’s very own Good Things Guy. He’s on a mission to change what the world pays attention to, and he truly believes that there’s good news all around us. In the Good Things Guy podcast, you’ll meet these everyday heroes & hear their incredible stories:
Or watch an episode of Good Things TV below, a show created to offer South Africans balance in a world with what feels like constant bad news. We’re here to remind you that there are still so many good things happening in South Africa & we’ll hopefully leave you feeling a little more proudly South African.

Facebook Comments

About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *