SME Today recently spoke to Andrew Baker BCAv, founder of Play2Give, a Didcot-based fundraising organisation supporting, raising money and awareness for many Oxfordshire charities.
“In February 2001, aged 12, my life changed when I underwent life saving brain surgery for a head injury sustained when I was knocked over at primary school, aged 8. It was treatment that would prove the tonic to success for me from the tender age of 14 and it created a story that continues to inspire others to work with me.”
“I actually sustained two head injuries. Upon birth at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in 1988 I suffered the first brain injury, although the full extent of the damage to the brain was not fully identified until Neurological tests at the age of 22. But my disabilities from birth and the trauma I experienced when I was 12 which led to the brain surgery that saved my life, have been the winning ingredient of my success. I have proven that no obstacles in life get in the way of success when you have willpower, determination and focus and as a result fantastic support, respect and admiration from the wider community of Oxfordshire.”
“It was my gratitude to the medical teams in Oxford for all they did to help me that spurred me on to want to raise funds for the city’s new Children’s Hospital as a way to repay the debt of thanks. So I started fund raising at the age of 14 and have raised over £240,000. I wanted to help the building of the children’s hospital so that other children and young people would have a state of the art purpose built facility that I never got to experience.”
“In 2007 the gears in my fundraising efforts really went up a notch when I set up P2G, now a successful volunteer fundraising organisation. Now 32, I have dedicated half of my life to fundraising and charitable giving and received some prestigious recognition along the way from a multitude of people. In 2013 at the age of 25, I was honoured to be named the winner of the “Inspiring Enterpreneur” Award at the Oxfordshire Youth Awards. And, it was in the same year that Play2Give became reinvigorated into the fundraising organisation that it is today.”
“Three years ago came my first national recognition in the shape of a British Citizen Award Medal of Honour. This esteemed honour was received in an awards ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, in July 2017, alongside 29 other medallists from the United Kingdom and earning me the letters BCAv after my name. BCAv stands for British Citizen Award for Volunteering and Charitable Giving. I have since become a proud Ambassador for the British Citizen Awards.”
“In January this year I earnt praise from Downing Street, as the Prime Minister honoured me with a Points of Light Award for outstanding individual volunteers. My local MP for Didcot and Wantage, David Johnston, presented me (pictured) with the honour on behalf of the Prime Minister, and has since become a proud Patron of Play2Give.”
Play2Give turned an incredible ten years old in 2017 – ten years of changing, transforming and saving lives and it still continues to do so. This September Play2Give became 13.
In the same milestone year as a decade of Play2Give, a patient room named after the fundraising group was unveiled within the children’s hospital, in tribute to years of tireless fundraising embarked upon by Andrew. The Play2Give Room cares for teenage patients, often for weeks on end, and was honoured to the Oxfordshire-based organisation after Andrew and his team of volunteers raised over £40,000 for the children’s hospital through countless fundraising football tournaments and other events, that netted in the funds.
Headway Oxfordshire is another key charity in his tireless never ending and unrelentless fundraising. Headway is a specialist brain injury centre based in Kennington, Oxford, and supports adults and their families affected by and living with the impact of acquired brain injuries.
Andrew continues his story, “I have been attending the Headway activity and rehabilitation centre since I was 23, in 2012. For me the support and rehabilitation Headway has given me over the past eight years has really helped me build up my essential life skills, which in turn I have been able to build into my successful ventures. As a relatively young charitable enterpreneur, I have seen my anxiety and shy inner self transform into the aspiring man that I am today.”
“The £7,000 of funds raised through my organisation has provided the centre with six specialist built physiotherapy exercise chairs. And, other funds for Headway have helped towards the redevelopment of the centre, provided funding to the new sensory rehabilitation garden, and helped towards the latest building renovation project.”
To date, nearly 30 charities and many individuals in Oxfordshire have been helped by the invaluable work of the award-winning organisation. Through football tournaments, fun days, fun runs, danceathons, spinathons and sponsored chilli eating contests, supermarket fundraisers, sponsored head shaves, skydives, and much more, Andrew has established himself as a prolific fundraiser with a wealth of event experience management behind him.
Regardless of his daily battles of chronic fatigue and frequent debilitating headaches which are part of his condition, nothing holds him back. In fact it makes him more determined than ever to keep on giving, and keep on growing his baby.
Starting with just two other helpers back in the early days the organisation today has 30 plus volunteers and helpers. P2G now provides clothing packages and magical pamper hampers to struggling individuals and families on low incomes.
A few years ago “Sleigh2Give” was conceived after a one-off festive spin off was created in 2015 to collect hundreds of presents for young patients in hospital over Christmas at the Oxford Children’s Hospital. The momentum of Sleigh2Give grew fast and over the course of five consecutive Christmas appeals around £120,000 worth of presents have been distributed to thousands of less fortunate children and families. The sixth “Sleigh2Give” drive has now launched. Year on year the heart warming festive appeal receives regular annual support from local businesses and schools but the organisation is always looking to increase the number of corporate supporters so they can keep on increasing the number of gifts.
Andrew now has a core team including a deputy and development director made up of his best friend, Luke, and a community officer Matthew, Luke’s younger brother. Cathy, is the latest addition as a marketing and admin volunteer. Andrew himself never stands still – he attends Headway twice weekly and volunteers once a week at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Very often when he can’t sleep at night he thinks up new ways to raise money or of additional ways to help others.
This year the biggest honour was to be announced as the winner of the Charity of the Year at the glitzy Thames Valley Business and Community Awards, held at the Hilton in Reading in January. Despite strong competition from other incredible charities and groups doing remarkable change, Play2Give came out on top and Andrew was delighted to accept the award (pictured) on behalf of his ever growing strong team of volunteers.
Even Covid-19 hasn’t stopped the work. Nearly £8,000 has been raised this year. Like many charities, Play2Give has been knocked by Coronavirus with all of their big public fundraising events cancelled. But the support from the local community hasn’t diminished, in fact Covid has only continued to strengthen the support, as people realise more than ever how invaluable the work of one tiny fundraising organisation can be.
Play2Give continues to transform the lives of tens of thousands in Oxfordshire, and hopefully in years to come they will be able to expand on a more national scale. They are always looking for more corporate sponsors to help keep the organisation going, especially in these current tough economic times.