Changing, transforming and saving lives – that is exactly what one young Didcot fundraising stalwart has done tirelessly without pause for half of his life.
Last year was extra special for fundraising superhero Andy Baker. On the day he turned 30 he celebrated at The Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and the organisation he founded, reached the £100,000 mark, his long-held dream.
Play2Give was launched in 2007 to say thank you for the help he received on two occasions in his life at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Andy fought for life in the Special Care Baby Unit and again, aged 12, after brain surgery.
The money raised by Play2Give over the years helped fund the building of Oxford Children’s Hospital. Recalling the support he received since his school days at St Birinus, he says: “Everybody has backed me from the beginning of my charity crusade – it’s such a team effort. I love helping those who are less fortunate, it’s been half my life.
“Being nominated last year to attend The Queen’s Garden Party was one of the highlights of my life and a lovely way to mark all I do to put my all back into giving to society. To share such a special day with my mum [Ann, pictured above], and up to 8,000 others was a humbling experience.”
The trip to the palace came on the back of him being honoured with a British Citizens Award in 2017 for his “exceptional endeavour”. It was also a memorable year in which a patient room for teenagers at the Children’s Hospital was named after the group in recognition of its efforts.
Play2Give now has its sights set on sponsoring a family room at £5,000 within Ronald McDonald House which provides accommodation for families of sick children while they are in hospital.
And if that weren’t enough, the group also provides funds for Headway Oxfordshire which supports people like Andy with acquired brain injuries – another cause close to his heart. Footsteps, Off the Streets, Be Free Young Carers and SeeSaw also benefit from Play2Give’s efforts.
But Andy acknowledges he couldn’t do it without the help and support of the community who join in his events which this year include a summer fayre on 3rd August in Edmonds Park, Didcot; a black-tie ball at the end of September at the town’s Civic Hall; golf days and your chance to show off your singing, dancing, juggling or comedy skills at Didcot’s Got Talent. Initial auditions are on Sunday, 24th February, at 10am at the Cornerstone with the final show on 29th June.
Inspirational Andy hopes to raise £15,000 through this year’s efforts.