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Didcot charity Play2Give founder celebrates two decades of fundraising

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Andy outside the Children’s Hospital. Picture by Sarah Vaccari from Oxford Hospitals Charity
Andy celebrating two decades of fundraising outside the Children’s Hospital in Oxford. Picture by Sarah Vaccari from Oxford Hospitals Charity
  • Andrew Baker MBE BCAv, from Didcot, is celebrating two decades of fundraising and dedicated charitable work.
  • It all started with a goal to raise just £500 at school, aged 14, as his way to give back for the gift of life.
  • Now, over 40 good causes and thousands of individuals in need have benefited from Andy’s kindness and generosity.
  • Andy is the founder of the fundraising organisation Play2Give, a Thames Valley Charity of the Year.
  • His motivation to help others has also resulted in a successful festive spin-off, Sleigh2Give.
  • Andy was awarded an MBE in 2021 for services to charity.

In February 2003, when Andy, then a year 10 pupil at St Birinus in Didcot, fundraised his first £1,000 for the appeal at his school to raise £15 million to build the Oxford Children’s Hospital at the John Radcliffe, little did he know that this was the going to be the start of what is now two decades of fundraising.

His inspiration to raise funds and catalyst for his fundraising drive steamed from the brain surgery he had on 05 February 2001 and the treatment he received afterwards. Andy was born with a brain injury at birth and continues to have weekly rehabilitation at the Headway Centre in Kennington to this day.

With a dream to raise just £500 at the school as a way to say “thank you” to the hospital teams who treated him, the non-uniform day was just the start for the spur of fundraising with Andy galvanising and enthusing the support of his pupils and teachers to support his crusade to help make the dream of the specialist children’s hospital a reality.

Andy aged 14 in year 10 presenting his first £1,000 raised for the Oxford Children's Hospital Appeal from a Non Uniform Day at St Birinus School
Andy aged 14 in year 10 presenting his first £1,000 raised for the Oxford Children’s Hospital Appeal from a Non Uniform Day at St Birinus School – the start of what is now two decades of fundraising.

But his fundraising has only continued growing and doing much more. From a series of imaginative, fun, wacky and more sane fundraising activities at the school, across five years and into the sixth form and beyond, to the creation of Play2Give – a fundraising organisation in September 2007.

Play2Give became well known across the county for its annual footballing fundraisers in its first decade, and since other events held have included colour fun runs, sponsored walks, a festive market in Didcot for two years running, spinathons, sponsored doughnut eating contests, supermarket bag packs, and individuals sponsored challenges including head shaves.

And his relentless dedication, determination and motivation to continue giving back to the doctors who gave him so much is even more remarkable. Despite living with his disability and the everyday challenges presented to him, including caring for his mum, Andy, now 33, refuses to be held back.

Andrew was the Oxfordshire winner of the Haines Watts Thames Valley Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014
Andrew was the Oxfordshire winner of the Haines Watts Thames Valley Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014

Now, Andy’s two decades of fundraising efforts have surpassed all expectations through Play2Give’s series of football tournaments and catalogue of events like cake and bake sales, tombolas, raffles, and more. He has raised over £380k for numerous children, health, and disability causes – through events and the value of Christmas gifts acquired.

He has drawn in support from the local community and all those around him – family, friends, Play2Give and even his local MP David Johnston who has been a Patron of his organisation for two years – to help and support over 40 good causes and with it, a catalogue of events.

Andy’s fundraising achievement, together with the aim to raise thousands more pounds, will be celebrated at the third black-tie Ball that Play2Give holds next month. The Play2Give touch of Hollywood themed Ball has proved to be another sell-out success despite the impact of the pandemic.

Andy received a British Citizen Award at the Westminster ceremony in July 2017 - which was his first national award. The award was presented by Michael Underwood, TV personality and former CBBC presenter.
Andy received a British Citizen Award in July 2017 – which was his first national award. The award at the Westminster ceremony was presented by Michael Underwood, TV personality and former CBBC presenter.

Despite all challenges and hurdles in his life, Andy has never given up. With half of his life dedicated to fundraising, Andy has received some prestigious awards and recognition along the way, including a British Citizen Award presented at Westminster in July 2017, an MBE presented by The Princess Royal at Windsor Castle last October, and for Play2Give, the award for Thames Valley Charity of the Year in January 2020.

Andy has also been nominated for a Didcot Town Council Lifetime Achievement Award, and the annual ceremony to celebrate outstanding individuals and groups in the town will announce the winners at a ceremony in late March.

Play2Give was also selected as the Didcot Mayor’s local charity of the year last May, and the Mayor has held some fun and engaging events since, with a wingwalk in the plan for April to help generate additional awareness.

Andy received an MBE for services to charity at an investiture ceremony presented by The Princess Royal at Windsor Castle in October 2021
Andy received an MBE for services to charity at an investiture ceremony presented by The Princess Royal at Windsor Castle in October 2021

And this year, Play2Give is set to mark its 15th anniversary year by raising £15,000 for the children’s hospital, Headway Oxfordshire, SSNAP, Sobell House and others.

The fundraising group are not resting on their laurels and are planning a busy year of jam-packed events, including a return of the event that made Play2Give most known in its early days, a charity football tournament in July, family fun and music on the park day in September, skydives, and another festive market in Didcot at the end of the year.

Indeed, Andy’s continuing with one goal, to keep on raising more to keep on giving back to help those organisations who have helped give him so much so that Play2Give can keep changing, transforming and saving lives across Oxfordshire.

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