Brian Dunleavy, Vendor Alliances Director, Viadex
Tokyo 2020 here we come
Almost at the year’s anniversary of our relationship with the para athlete, Brandon Beack, we were delighted to welcome him to our London offices recently. Brandon spent two weeks in Europe on a training trip sponsored by Viadex and came to see us when he was in the UK.
In fact, he did more than that; in the middle of a crammed schedule Brandon made the time to impart some lessons from his own struggles with adversity, to the whole Viadex team. It was a motivational session from the heart.
Brandon is a victim of spinal cord injury and has fought with major set-backs in his athletic career. In August 2012 he was training to become an Olympic athlete. One day he attempted a backward somersault dismount from the parallel bars during gymnastics training. He went too far sideways, missing the safety mats and landing on his head on concrete floor. He compressed the sixth and seventh vertebrae, breaking his neck and resulting in quadriplegia. In an instant his life changed.
Coming back from an injury of that gravity was literally a super-human challenge, but we’re all convinced that Brandon is something of a super human.
As Brandon says, “Something inside me said no.” He refused to accept the prospect of relying on others for basic tasks in an everyday life; walking, eating, and even bathing. “I make my own future,” says Brandon. On his road to recovery and rehabilitation Brandon set new South African records for shot putt, discuss, and the 100-yard sprint.
In his talk at Viadex offices, he succeeded in putting a fresh perspective, for all of us, on how to deal with big challenges in life. He showed how, when difficulties arise in any sphere, ignoring them or failing to tackle them full-on can have a multiplying effect on the problems.
A man with a mission
His key message was that a successful life is about finding solutions. Brandon believes, and has proved, that you can achieve anything with the mind. It’s a powerful philosophy for an individual; Brandon is fully independent now and competes internationally (in 2016 he qualified for the Rio Paralympics, just missing a place on the team due to numbers).
It’s also a winning strategy for a business. This is where there is a true meeting of minds between Viadex people and Brandon. It’s where the attraction between our two parties started and why Viadex are committed to supporting this determined young man’s continued journey. He is absolutely a man with a mission.
Brandon is great fun to be with too. It’s no surprise that any photo that features Brandon is full of smiles, not just from Brandon but on the faces of everyone he comes into contact with.
Training with the best
Brandon came over with his coach, Robert Evans, who’s currently studying for a PhD at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) in Cape Town. If you’ve not come across Brandon’s story before, please take a look at our blog “Walking with Brandon: Rehabilitation One Step at a Time”.
The purpose of Brandon’s Viadex-sponsored training visit to Europe was to experience facilities and compete against other para athletes; competitors that he has no exposure to in South Africa. He spent a week competing in Switzerland side-by-side with the top para athletes in the world, on the world’s fastest paralympic track at Nottwil. His second week was in the UK, training at the Weir Archer Academy.
A movement for the disabled by the disabled
Today, Brandon has a new goal, a new challenge; making the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games: “Nothing is stopping me,” Brandon told us. He has other goals too. Brandon, despite a full schedule and no shortage of challenges, also works tirelessly to help others with paralysis through the foundation he co-founded with his parents, the Walking with Brandon Foundation.
The foundation offers outpatient neurological rehabilitation for people who have had the same challenges as Brandon. The programme now helps 77 people and six have started walking again.
“In the western cape of South Africa alone there are over 50,000 wheelchair users,” Brandon told us. “The majority of these disabled people are poor and homeless. The world statistic for spinal cord injuries alone is 23 people per million. In South Africa, it’s 75 people per million and we don’t have the facilities to accommodate that.” Brandon says that disabled people are just as capable as ‘abled’ people and can do much to help each other. For this reason, his foundation aims to be a self-sustaining as possible; not a ‘charity’, but a movement for the disabled, by the disabled.
Viadex is supporting Brandon in this movement. We’re working with Brandon on providing accessible and tailored transport for disabled people with paralysis in and and around Cape Town,getting them to the place they need to be and on time. We were honoured that he came to see us. The Viadex team agreed afterwards that we’d all had that feeling that we’d been in the company of imminent greatness. All eyes on Brandon’s future and all eyes on Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
About Brandon Beack and the ‘Walking with Brandon’ Foundation
Realising that there are so many South Africans in similar life-changing circumstances and without the good fortune to be able to receive the right outpatient neurological rehabilitation, Brandon and his family had the vision and commitment to start the ‘Walking with Brandon’ Foundation.
After experiencing the benefits of a six-week therapy programme in Atlanta, GA, United States of America, Brandon wanted to implement something similar in South Africa. The foundation and the University of Cape Town in South Africa have collaborated on a research project to show that the use of robotic walking suits increases the rate of spinal cord injury recovery.