Oxfordshire fundraising group scoops highly coveted Charity of the Year gong

Published: 3rd February 2020

An Oxfordshire fundraising organisation that has been changing transforming and saving lives across Oxfordshire for over twelve years has scooped a highly coveted award.

Didcot-based Play2Give, which was set up by a young entrepreneur with a brain injury, recently won the ‘Charity of the Year’ gong at the Thames Valley Business and Community Awards.

The swish award ceremony was held at the Hilton hotel in Reading at the end of January. These annual awards recognises and celebrates the best businesses, charities and individuals the region has to offer, and 12-year-old Play2Give beat stiff competition from other charities, to be named the ‘best of the pack’ in the Thames Valley region.

Guests enjoyed a sumptuous 3-course meal while being entertained by one of Europe’s best Tina Turner impersonators, Tiny Tina Turner and her six-piece band.

Radio presenter and business advisor Mary Flavelle was the awards hostess. Mary is the founder of one of the UK’s biggest women networking groups. Guests were motivated by an inspiring keynote speech from British Gold Olympian Naomi Riches MBE.

The evening also raise money for several charities through games, an auction and a raffle.

Founder of Play2Give, Andrew Baker BCAv from Didcot who created the organisation in September 2007, said: “It was a total surprise and a shock for Play2Give to win this very prestigious award, as we was in amongst such amazing and far bigger charities and as a group made up of just volunteers, for Play2Give to receive such a coveted award like this, the first in our 12-year history, is very special indeed.

He added: “This is a great tribute to the amazing team of volunteers who help me make Play2Give the success that it is, but also serves as a way to recognise the ‘thanks’ of the local community and all supporters, as we can only do what we do across Oxfordshire, thanks to the amazing and loyal support we continue to receive.

He continued: “This will help Play2Give massively and help increase our profile and awareness, and this award is a great way to show that our tireless work to make a massive difference to thousands of lives locally each year really is valued for all the good we do. We cannot the judges enough.”

Andy was inspired to form Play2Give in 2007, after childhood treatment he received. He was born with a brain injury 31 years ago, and underwent brain surgery aged 12. In 2003 aged 14, Andy began fundraising for the Oxford Children’s Hospital whilst a St Birinus School, Didcot pupil, before creating Play2Give as an initial one-off football tournament.

Over £220,000 has since been raised by the organisation through events and through Christmas gift appeals. Its festive spin-off, ‘Sleigh2Give’ celebrated its record breaking gift appeal last year, with £50k worth of presents donated to local charities and local children in need.

The Thames Valley Business and Community Awards judging process saw a range of esteemed entrepreneurs come together to scrutinise finalists and select the shortlisted nominees from nearly 500 nominations and the winners among them.

Due to the high standard of entrants, a record 165 nominations was shortlisted across the awards categories.

Judges included serial South West Entrepreneur James Phipps, property tycoon Roslyn Bell, Christina Briggs and Tina Fincham. Jackie Chappell, the 1st Woman CEO of British Rail, was also part of the judging process.

Alec Jones-Hall, director of the awards, said: “We are proud and excited to have celebrated tonight the very best outstanding achievement across the region and rewarding those who are making a huge impact throughout the Thames Valley. We are delighted that these Awards have raised thousands of pounds for charity. The business community came together, not only to celebrate the accomplishments of those shortlisted and the deserving winners but also to give back to the community.”

Play2Give’s founder Andrew was recently honoured with a prestigious ‘Points of Light’ award from the prime minister, and was given a British Citizen Award in 2017. The group are busy organising this year’s Summer Fayre in Didcot, its latest football tournament in July and other events including a race night later in the year.