This year marks a big milestone for a brain injury survivor who has dedicated his life to raising money for good causes.

Andy Baker, 33, from Didcot has made it his mission to raise thousands of pounds for brain injury and children hospital charities across Oxfordshire.

He was born with a brain injury and was cared for in hospital 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 a desire to give something back and the launch of a campaign by the Didcot Herald's sister paper, the Oxford Mail, to help build a new Oxford Children’s Hospital, that propelled Mr Baker into fundraising.

Read more: Founder of Didcot charity Play2Give celebrates fundraising milestone

Herald Series: Andy Baker holding his Play2Give trophy that will be given to the winning team of his annual charity football tournament

Mr Baker said: “My inspiration to raise funds, and initially for the Oxford Children's Hospital aged 14 while a schoolboy at St Birinus School, was driven by my childhood treatment since I was born with a brain injury and notably the brain surgery I endured aged 12.

“Aged 14 and to say ‘thank you’ back to the Oxford medics who cared for me in my rehabilitation, and ultimately giving me the "gift of life" twice over, I set off with a goal to raise just £500 as a way to help fund the building of the specialist children's hospital.

“But my dream to raise some money at school has lead into two decades of fundraising. I would have never imagined that I would have gone on 20 years later.”

In September 2007, Play2Give was born, this year, the fundraising organisation will be celebrating its 15th birthday.

Mr Baker said: “It was only meant to be a one-off event in 2007. Me and a friend thought about doing a football tournament, and that is how the name came to be, playing football to give to charity.

“It was so successful that we thought to do it again and eventually they took off across Oxfordshire and it became the most expected event for the first decade of Play2Give life.”

Since then, the organisation has hosted a range of fundraising events to raise money for Oxford Children’s Hospital Charity, the brain charity Headway Oxfordshire, the charity Support for Sick Newborn and Parents (SSNAP) among others.

Herald Series:

Its festive branch, Sleigh2Give had a smililar start to Play2Give. It raises money to give patients in the Oxford Children’s Hospital presents at Christmas.

Mr Baker said: “It was also supposed to be a one-off event. In 2015, when we where Sainsbury’s Didcot charity of the year, one of the workers at the store wanted to do a walk dress like Santa to race funds and collect toys.

"So we organised a toy collection for the Children’s Hospital. It went so well that we did it next year. And now we do it every year since then.”

Read more: Charities congratulate Play2Give founder for 20 years of fundraising

Despite living daily life with a brain injury, he fights strong against his disability which often leaves him suffering chronic fatigue, debilitating headaches, impaired cognitive function and mobility, but he continues to help others who requires help and support.

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Last year, he received Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his charitable work.

Mr Baker said: “Receiving the MBE from the Princess Royal was a very special moment.

The MBE has been good for Play2Give. It has helped us to get more recognition, and we have seen more sport coming through that.”

“Despite the brain injury and the twice weekly rehabilitation I still receive 10 years on from the Headway Oxfordshire Centre I continue to fight and keep inspired to just keep on raising more. And to keep changing, transforming and saving lives across Oxfordshire, with over 40 good causes locally benefited in that time."

As Play2Give is commemorateing its fifteenth year, Mr Baker and his team aim to raise at least £15k through a jam packed calendar of events this year. 


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