Andy is the Community Champion of the Year

Published: 26th April 2019

Our founder is a community champ!

​We are delighted and proud to announce that our wonderful and inspirational founder, Andrew Baker, was awarded at Soha Housing‘s AGM and Thank-you event this week.

Soha held their AGM on Tuesday evening, and as part of the occasion they also gave time to say ‘thank-you’ to people who have made exceptional contributions to their local communities in undertaking great things. 

Andy was the big winner of the night receiving the overall award for ‘Community Champion of the Year’, as well as receiving the ‘Best Fundraiser’ award along with an award for ‘Making a Difference’, which was also given to many other tenants including fellow Didcot volunteer Courtney Hughes, who runs Secret Santa, which collects gifts year-round for the elderly, homeless and vulnerable.

The Community Champion of the Year Award was chosen by an independent panel out of all award nominees, and we were thrilled that Andy was given the honour, after smashing his £100,000 fundraising milestone last December.  Andy has been fundraising tirelessly for local charities since the age of 14, when he began raising money firstly for the Oxford Children’s Hospital, at St Birinus School, in 2003.

To date, Andy has raised and donated out  over £170,000 to a catalogue of local charities including toys and gifts through his annual ‘Sleigh2Give’ campaign over the past 17 years, and created Play2Give in 2007.  He underwent treatment throughout his childhood for a multitude of health problems, after being born with a brain injury over 30 years ago.  He received brain surgery at the age of 12. In 2017, Play2Give opened a single patient room for teenagers in the Children’s Hospital and fundraising efforts also helped fund the redevelopment of the Headway Oxfordshire centre, a centre that provides rehabilitation to adults like Andy with brain injuries and helped to equip the county’s first neurological physiotherapy gym, based at Headway’s site in Kennington.

Play2Give are working towards achieving a £5,000 goal to sponsor a family room within the Ronald McDonald House, currently situated on the top floor of the Children’s Hospital.  The team have helped to fund the building of a new £14million four-storey 62-bedroom facility which will enable many more families to stay closer to their sick child, including babies in neonatal care. Once the new Ronald McDonald House opens on the John Radcliffe site, which is currently being built, it will be able to expand the number of parents who can stay allowing many more to stay closer nearby.

A huge well done to all the other ‘local heroes’ who was honoured by Soha for their differences they make to society in their local areas, including some brilliant neighbours honoured, because as the saying goes, everyone needs good neighbours. Each winner shows that Didcot and Oxfordshire in the areas that Soha as a housing association serves are first rate citizens, and we couldn’t be more proud of  Andy for his unstinting and selfless example of a true community champion that he shows all year round to make a difference to other’s people’s lives as a way to continually repay his gift of life back.