£120,000 worth of gifts and thousands receiving cheer joy and smiles, that is the annual Sleigh2Give campaign otherwise known as the festive spin off, of Didcot-based fundraising organisation, Play2Give.
For the past five Christmases, Mr Play2Give, Andrew Baker from the town has spread an elfy cheer, joy and smiles in abundance to children in hospital and others less fortunate across the county through his Christmas gift arm of his organisation.
Launching his sixth annual festive present appeal today, Andrew is gearing up to sprinkle the magic and kindness of Christmas, in an aim to help as many children, families and charities this Christmas with another present drive.
The Thames Valley award winning charity of the year, Play2Give was set up by Andrew in 2007, and earlier this month (September) turned 13 years old.
Over £229,000 has been achieved by the volunteer group since then, with funds raised through a catalogue of local events including football tournaments, fun days, Superhero strolls, spinathons, talent shows and balls amongst many other events. £120,000 through the value of gifts donated making up the incredible total thanks to a dedicated team and passionate community supporters getting behind Andy’s inspirational work.
The “Sleigh2Give” drive was created out of an initial one-off spin-off in December 2015, when Andy teamed up with Sainsbury’s Didcot employee Lee Crook, to collect and deliver three sacksful of Christmas presents for the children on the wards at the Oxford Children’s Hospital.
The stunt was so successful that Andy capitalised on the first appeal’s success and fast became a popular and well loved campaign, that last year saw £50,000 worth of Christmas presents given out to children, families and the vulnerable in the community.
To launch this year’s appeal in spectacular style, a Superheroes themed fitness bootcamp, in tandem with the Angels Performing Arts and Abingdon-based personal trainer, Sam Brookes, will fly off in Blewbury on Sunday. Andy, who has already had a flurry of support come through from previous campaign donors including the Angels, and he is still as determined to raise as many gifts as possible this year to still help make Christmas for someone less fortunate that little bit more special.
On Sunday around 20 fitness minded people as a sea of Superheroes will take part in a fun, energetic and lively socially-distanced bootcamp in response to the director of the Angels Peforming Arts school, Jennie Featherstone, effort in ‘Sober September’ as part of this year’s present collection.
Former St Birinus School pupil Andy, who has tirelessly been raising money for the Oxford Children’s Hospital since the age of 14 amongst other good causes since 2003, always launches the festive drive in September every year.
Earlier this year, he was recognised by the Prime Minister with a prestigious Points of Light award for his services to the community, and in 2017 received a British Citizen Award Medal of Honour for his charitable work.
He collects, delivers and distributes with an army of helpers and volunteers presents to a range of local charities including brain injury centre Headway based in Kennington, Footsteps in Dorchester-on-Thames, the children’s wards, neonatal care areas and the family accommodation at the John Radcliffe, amongst young carers in Didcot, families supported by Home-Start and amongst many others all benefiting from the generosity of gift giving.
Despite all of Play2Give’s events since March being cancelled due to the Coronavirus, the fundraising team has managed to raise close to £8,000 this year, showing the loyal following of supporters in the community.
Andy, born with a brain injury and who attends the Headway centre twice weekly as part of his ongoing rehabilitation, was initially inspired to fundraise aged 14 for the Children’s Hospital, after receiving childhood treatment including brain surgery at the age of 12. Headway, in Kennington, will once again receive gifts, this time in the form of life-size games specifically designated for the new outdoor sensory garden, and arts and crafts items.
Fundraising to give back to medical teams in Oxford who helped to look after and care for him during his childhood was the catalyst for Andy to start out on his fundraising journey. Sleigh2Give continues to be an integral part of Play2Give, year on year growing into a popular festive appeal amongst residents.
Although Coronavirus has impacted the usual delivery of the gift appeal, for example no physical visits to the hospital wards this year, he is still gathering as many presents as possible, even with usual systems running different to normal.
The festive appeal is taking donations of new toys, books, toiletries, vouchers, food, DVDs, games, art and craft, activities and other suitable gift items.
Other beneficiaries will include Be Free Young Carers, Footsteps, two branches of Home Start, and for the first time Cradle and Sobell House amongst others. At requests presents will also be given to families struggling and hit hard by the financial crisis of Covid.
Donation points will be appearing across Oxfordshire over the next few weeks, with supermarkets across the county dedicating collection trolleys and many schools, including St Birinus, have already signed up amongst many local businesses.
To find out how to get involved in this year’s sixth festive drive or for a full list of donation points.
You can also donate funds, which helps to purchase gifts, at givey.com/sleigh2give