Being born with a brain injury and then being cared for in hospital from birth was never going to stop Andrew Baker from achieving, instead it has been his catalyst for his success.

He has made it his mission to raise hundreds and thousands of pounds for brain injury and children’s hospital charities across Oxfordshire which has led him to winning several prestigious awards for his fundraising.

Andrew Baker, 32 lives in Didcot and he is the founder and CEO of Play2Give, the Oxfordshire fundraising organisation.

Mr Baker was born with a brain injury and was cared for since birth, he then suffered a head injury at the age of eight which resulted in him needing further treatment and later surgery at the age of 12.

It was this background and a campaign launched by the Oxford Mail to get the Oxford Children’s Hospital built that propelled Mr Baker into fundraising.

Mr Baker said: “I was 14 when the big campaign was launched with the Oxford Mail to build the children’s hospital and me and my mum were featured by the Mail for the launch of that in September 2002.

“I instantly wanted to raise a bit of money as a thank you, I wanted to raise £500 and my school, St Birinus, really got behind me and they were really enthused by the project and the need because a lot of the kids at the school had spent time as patients. It was St Birinus that started my fundraising journey off.”

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When Mr Baker was a child he was taken back and forth between the John Radcliffe hospital and the Radcliffe Infirmary because there was no Oxford Children’s Hospital.

As a result of his brain injury, Mr Baker was monitored for his learning needs including speech and his growth was also checked on. He attended various clinics through his childhood and he also had eye surgery when he was three.

After his operation when he was 12-years-old he went back and forth between hospitals for treatment and it was not until he was 18 that he was discharged, which was only a few months before the Oxford Children’s Hospital opened its doors, a hospital that was partly built with the money he raised.

In September 2007, Play2Give was born and in one month the charity will be celebrating its 13th birthday.

Mr Baker said: “It was supposed to be a one-off event. Me and a friend from school wanted to do a football tournament and we had companies and teams of people entering and that is how the name came about, playing football to give to charity.

“It was really successful, the first year we had 19 teams and the Oxford Mail actually put a team of staff in which was really awesome.That was successful, so I thought let’s do it again.”

Since, Play2Give has hosted a range of fundraising events to raise money for the Children’s Hospital, Headway Oxfordshire, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Mr Baker has even raised money with Sainsburys supermarket in Didcot. Play2Give had a year’s worth of support from the supermarket and impassioned staff helped him raise £4,300, which is a record amount.

However, amongst all the fundraising Mr Baker does the Children’s Hospital is a cause close to his heart.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Baker said: “The Children’s hospital has always been right there from the start in 2007. So, with our first football tournament the money went to the Oxford Children’s Hospital and I know the money from that went towards the final throws of the building of the hospital.”

He added: “We then worked towards raising £40,000 which resulted in us naming our own room, so we funded our very own patient room on Melony’s ward which is the teenage ward. £40,000 is quite an ambitious target set by the hospital charity, but we got there, and it was in 2017 that we unveiled that room.”

The teenage ward in the Oxford Children’s Hospital is close to his heart as he spent a lot of his teenage years in hospital after his brain surgery.

He said: “To have our very own patent room is obviously a lifelong tribute for all our fundraising and the fact that I had been fundraising since the age 14 in 2003 is amazing. Now we continue to raise money for medical equipment and everything we do goes above and beyond to fundraise.”

Play2Give's festive branch of the charity Sleigh2Give raises money to give patients in the Oxford Children’s Hospital presents at Christmas.

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Mr Baker said: “When we go up at Christmas, we always visit our room on Melanie's ward, and we get to meet the teenager that is staying in there and that is always really moving. When we tell them that this is our room and we funded it they are always really moved as well by that.”

Brain injury charity, Headway Oxfordshire is another charity Mr Baker has worked hard to raise money for. Over the years he has raked up a total of £17,000 for Headway, which funded some physiotherapy chairs.

Mr Baker has also helped fund accommodation at Ronald Mc Donald House, which is a space for the families of children in the Oxford Children’s Hospital to stay.

He said: “It costs £25 a night to keep a family accommodated at Ronald Mc Donald House and we have raised over £9000 so that is an enormous amount of nights that we have helped provide.”

He believes it is great to see other children benefitting from the services he did not have when he was a teenager and explained his mum used to sleep next to his hospital bed and did not have facilities like the Ronald Mc Donald House.

Coronavirus impacted the Play2Give charity events this year and many were cancelled, however people have still been generous.

Mr Baker said: “Covid-19 affected the charity massively this year. All our events have been cancelled. We should have done our football tournament two weeks ago which I was really excited about after a three-year break.”

He added: “Quite a lot of our events have been cancelled so we have had to raise money online, but we still managed to raise almost £8,000 which is amazing. People have been really generous; everyone has always been generous but when it comes to Covid-19 people have been even more generous and fingers crossed we can get to £8,000 by the end of the year.”

Mr Baker has won and been nominated for several prestigious awards for his volunteering work. The Play2Give CEO even has the letters BCAv next to his name for the British Citizen Award for volunteering.

He said: “When you have initials like that next to your name then supports know that you know what you are doing. Then you get people asking what BCAv stands for.”

The fundraiser has even been recognised by Downing Street for his charitable work and received the Points of Light award in January.

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David Johnston, MP for Wantage and Didcot presented the award to Mr Baker and then he later became a patron for the charity.

Winston Ellis is play2Give's first celebrity patron, he starred in Batman Dark Night and Pirates of the Caribbean and he started donating to the charity in October 2018.

After just wanting to raise money to say thank you to the doctors that took care of him through his brain injury, Mr Baker has become the CEO of a well-known Oxfordshire charity and won multiple awards.

Mr Baker said: “I wanted to just raise some money as a thank you. The doctors have given me the gift of life twice over and so I thought I would make a bit of money and then St Birinus really got behind me thinking of all sorts of ideas to raise money as a school.

“I would have never imagined my little baby Play2Give to become this known and it has grown so much around Didcot and Oxfordshire. It is really heart-warming because I get a lot of support out there.”

He added: “I always lose track of how many charities we support all together, but it is a lot.”