A BRAIN injury survivor and a junior doctor are among 20 Oxfordshire heroes who have been rewarded in the New Year Honours List.

Andrew Baker, 32, made it his mission to raise thousands of pounds for brain injury and children’s hospital charities, and will now, after almost two decades of fundraising, receive an honour from the Queen.

Joining him is Gareth Hynes, a junior doctor at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH), who was involved in organising the regional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The duo have both been awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), while professor David Stuart, who has spent his career studying the nature of viruses, was given a knighthood.

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Mr Baker, who lives in Didcot, is the founder of Play2Give, the Oxfordshire fundraising organisation.

He was born with a brain injury, and 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.

The St Birinus pupil started raising money at the age of 14 in what started out as a dream to raise £500 to help build the children’s hospital.

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This dream became the organisation Play2Give, which has raised about £250,000 for Oxfordshire charities.

The Didcot fundraiser said he received an email in November informing him that he had been chosen to receive an MBE for his charitable work.

Mr Baker explained that due to coronavirus, he received an email instead of a ‘fancy’ letter in the post. At first, he did not believe the email was real and questioned if he was even meant to receive it.

He said: “I was speechless really, it took a while for it to sink in. The only person who knows about it is my mum. She has been my lifelong supporter and she was so proud and emotional.”

He added: “Nothing is higher than an honour from the Queen, so it was quite a nice early Christmas present.”

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Mr Baker said has found it hard to keep the news of an MBE a secret.

He said: “Although the MBE is for me, it is also a nice tribute to all my team and my supporters.”

For Mr Baker, the news also came at a hard time. This year he lost someone he saw as a second mother to terminal cancer.

He said: “There have been times this year when things got tough and I wanted to throw it all in, but the thought of helping all the children in the hospital and all the other people kept me going.”

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Meanwhile, Mr Hynes, a specialist registrar in Respiratory Medicine at OUH and a clinical research fellow at the University of Oxford, was awarded an MBE for his services to medical education during Covid-19.

Mr Hynes, 36, was involved in organising the regional response to the pandemic for junior doctors, including pandemic preparation; the education of clinicians on Covid-19; regular communication and information dissemination; caring for the physical and emotional wellbeing of colleagues, and looking after patients with Covid on the Respiratory High Dependency Unit.

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, chair of OUH NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Junior doctors have played a key role in the NHS response to the coronavirus pandemic and so it is fitting that Gareth has been awarded an MBE for his important contribution.”

MBEs were also awarded to Abingdon-based foster carers Rodney and Rosalie James, for their services to fostering.

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Another local recognised for their work during the pandemic is structural biologist Mr Stuart, of Kidlington, who was given a knighthood.

He said: “This past year has been challenging for many all over the world, and I am amongst the large number of scientists who are trying to apply their knowledge and expertise to help fight this pandemic.”

Dieter Helm, of Bampton, was also knighted for services to the environment, energy and utilities policy.

Debra Courtenay-Crane, head coach at Carterton Gymnastics Club was given the Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for her services to gymnastics and young people in Carterton.

Judith Webb of Kidlington was also awarded with the BEM, for her services to conservation of wildlife and habitats in Oxfordshire.

The rest of the winners

Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Mark Hopwood, managing director of Great Western Railway. For services to transport. (Didcot)

Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain. For services to small businesses. (Brightwell-cum-Sotwell)

Felicity Waley-Cohen, of Robert and Felicity Waley-Cohen Charitable Trust. For services to children’s medicine. (Banbury)

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Robert Buckingham, robotics director at UK Atomic Energy Authority. For services to robotic engineering. (Abingdon)

Christopher Hodges, professor of Justice Systems. For services to business and law. (Bicester)

John Liversidge. For services to victims of domestic abuse. (Witney)

William Plaistowe. For services to the care of the elderly and education. (Watlington)

Patricia Rice, chair of School Teachers’ Review Body. For services to education. (Garsington)

Eleanor Stride, professor of Biomaterials. For services to engineering. (Oxford)

Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Richard Brown. For services to people with disabilities and the community in Middle Barton. (Chipping Norton)

David Earle. For voluntary and charitable services. (Banbury)

Neil Weller. For services to education and skills. (Oxfordshire)

Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM)

Thomas Croft. For services to the arts and charity during Covid-19. (Oxford)

Richard Thomas. For services to healthcare and the community in South Oxfordshire. (Finchampstead, Berkshire)

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