An esteemed fundraiser from Didcot rubbed shoulders with royalty recently for a thirtieth birthday to remember. The inspirational founder of Play2Give, Andrew Baker, who has dedicated half of his life to helping others, received a lucky ticket to The Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace earlier this month.
Andy, of Didcot, was one of around 8,000 lucky community stalwarts from across the country to ‘bag’ a very special date at the palace – on the day of his 30th birthday – in recognition of his selfless and tireless charity campaigning.
The former St Birinus School pupil, dubbed ‘Mr Play2Give’, born with a brain injury, has thrown himself into fundraising over the past 16 years. Inspired to help others, he is now just over £5,000 away from reaching £100,000 – which he hopes to achieve by the end of the year.
He began his fundraising mission aged 14 in 2003 to repay the Oxford medical teams who saved his life at birth, and aged at aged 12 with brain surgery. He set up his hugely successful fundraising organisation, Play2Give, in 2007 to continue the fundraising he first embarked upon at St Birinus. Over this time his team has helped raise funds for Oxford Children’s Hospital, brain injury charity Headway Oxfordshire, Footsteps in Dorchester and other county-based charities. He has organised a wide range of events including football tournaments, balls, charity nights, fun days, skydives, walks, Christmas toy drives, supermarket appeals and many more to ‘net’ in funds.
Andy’s fundraising earnt him national acclaim last summer when he scooped a prestigious British Citizen Award bestowed to him in a ceremony at the Palace of Westminster last July, in the same year that saw The Play2Give Room – a treatment room for teenage patients in the children’s hospital – open in P2G’s name. The fundraising organisation steered by Andy saw their most successful year raising close to a record £20,000 in its tenth anniversary.
Andy, who fought for life in the special care baby unit after being born with a brain injury at the John Radcliffe, and subsequently underwent brain surgery, aged 12 following a further head injury, was given the best thirtieth birthday present on 5th June with afternoon tea with members of the royal family, and multi-award winning local taxi firm Go Green Taxis, one of Play2Give’s sponsors, chauffeured Andy and his mum Ann in style in one of their Mercedes to and back from the occasion free of charge as their own contribution to reward his sterling work.
Andy was nominated last September for the Garden Party honour in a process that involved the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire – The Queen’s representative in the county. The prestigious Garden Party, one of three held at Buckingham Palace this summer, on June 5th recognised and rewarded ‘unsung heroes’ from across the country from all walks of life for
their positive impact and contributions to the society and communities in which they live.
At the three-hour long event, Andy and his mum got to see Princess Anne and HRH Prince of Wales, amongst other members of the royal party. HRH hosted the occasion.
He says: “It was the best birthday I have ever had. It was a truly amazing experience and a day that me and my mum will remember forever. We will never forget it, and we are really thankful to have been honoured to attend. You never think you are going to get to go to the palace, it was a dream come true. And to meet other people who are doing amazing things it
was a really lovely atmosphere and I will certainly treasure the day”
Andy, of Great Western Drive, added being at the occasion was a ‘tribute’ to the countless thousands who have helped get behind, involved and supported his fundraising efforts over the past sixteen years, including Go Green Taxis who have played a major part particularly in the organisation’s ‘Sleigh2Give’ festive appeal for the past three years. He says: “It was such a nice way to thank me for everything I have done and is a tribute to everybody that has helped me”.
He added: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Go Green for their kind generosity in transporting us to our special day and I continue to be hugely appreciative of their wonderful support”.
Play2Give is busy organising Didcot’s new Summer Fayre being held on August 4th at Edmonds Park in the town of which Go Green Taxis is one of many sponsors. Other events, including a martial arts sparathon will take place in Didcot on June 24, all to help boost the organisation’s appeal and to help Andy to within his £100,000 milestone this year.
The fundraising organisation is also a finalist in this year’s Oxfordshire Business Awards in the Oxford Times Charity & Community Award prize. The lavish black-tie dinner takes place on June 15, when winners across many categories will be announced. Play2Give is up against Oxford mental health charity Restore, and Oxford-based Donnington Doorstep.