What a lotto we got from funding support as good causes in Northern Ireland share £1bn since draw began
Since it held its first draw almost 20 years ago, the National Lottery has pumped almost £1bn in to good causes in Northern Ireland.
Over two decades, the initiative has funded more than 20,000 projects in the province, helping countless people – many of them in extreme need.
As the Belfast Telegraph helps launch new Lotto today, the National Lottery revealed it is on course to pass the £1bn mark by the end of the year.
The timing would be perfect, as 2014 marks the 20th anniversary since the National Lottery first started its balls rolling.
The Lottery funds almost 20,000 projects in Northern Ireland with money invested in to five areas – the arts, sport and heritage, education, environment, health and charity.
For every ticket bought, 28% is given to the Lottery's 'good causes'. Since the National Lottery was first launched in 1994, an impressive £996m has been handed over to good causes here.
The first draw took place on November 19, 1994 with a television programme presented by Noel Edmonds. Seven jackpot winners shared a prize of just under £6m.
"We hope to break the £1bn barrier before Christmas," said Ruairi O'Kane, a spokesman for the National Lottery in Northern Ireland.
"It will be a big thing for us, especially as next year is the 20th anniversary of the National Lottery, so we will be looking to have raised £1bn in total.
"The biggest ever national lottery grant in Northern Ireland was £45m, which went towards the Odyssey Complex.
"But the majority of our grants across the board are for less than £10,000 – in fact,70% are for less then £10,000.
"In some cases it is only a matter of £50 or £60 given to people who are writing a book or people who need to buy a computer."
"There are plans to mark the 20th and 21st anniversary of the National Lottery in 2014 and 2015 but nothing has been finalised yet.
"All will be revealed in due course."
Of all the money spent on National Lottery games, 50% goes to the prize fund, 28% to 'good causes' as set out by Parliament, 12% to the UK Government as duty, 5% to retailers as commission and a total of 5% to operator Camelot.
A further 4.5% is given over to cover operating costs and 0.5% is profit.
Backing helps to put paralympian Sally Brown firmly on right track
Paralympian Sally Brown was born in Ballykelly and suffered from left arm dysmelia, which meant that her left arm didn't develop below the elbow.
Not one for letting her disability get in the way of achieving her goals, Sally's running talent was evident from an early age and she was quickly fast tracked into a GB training camp in 2010.
At just 15-years-of-age, she competed in the 2011 IPC World Championships in New Zealand and the 2012 Paralympics in London.
Now 18-years-old, she is ranked number one in the UK over both 100m and 200m distances.
Sally's father Richard says that her success is partly down to the support she received from the National Lottery.
"Lottery funding has helped Sally get to the level that she is at," he said.
"It has helped her with her travel costs so she has been able to get to competitions; with her coaching and with her physiotherapy.
"It has helped her get from being a top level athlete to a national level athlete where she is competing for her country.
"Sally has had a couple of injuries in the past year and if it wasn't for the national lottery she would not have been able to get the help she needed," he added.
"She was able to get top medical advice, to have the scans and fly over to England to get the top guys looking at her."
Sally hasn't been able to compete at any professional events this year due to injury.
She is now living in Loughborough where she is a full time athlete and studying part time.
Next year she hopes to make history competing against able-bodied athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
She has also set her sights on preparing for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Grant a lifeline to children's centre
Little Orchids Children Centre in Londonderry provides support for children with special needs and their families, with needs ranging from profound disability, sensory disability, language impairments, autism, Down's Syndrome and physical disability.
The centre received a Culture for All grant from the National Lottery, which they have used to buy a range of musical instruments, including tambourines, triangles, and drums. The children, who are aged between two and four, have been able to foster creativity and develop self-expression through music.
"Music is one of the best ways for the children to develop their language, play, social and physical skills," said centre manager Maura McGregor.
"Without the National Lottery we would not have been able to purchase the instruments. We really depend on funding from the National Lottery to provide these resources for the children. The National Lottery has also funded an outdoor play area and staff training.
"Every child here has had a more stimulating experience as a result of this funding and the range of interventions available has increased as a result," she added.
Money used to promote reading
The Verbal Arts Centre in Londonderry received a grant from the National Lottery to run a project encouraging people to read more.
The money went towards setting up portable reading rooms in the city during the UK City of Culture celebrations.
The Verbal Arts Centre will provide free training for up to 200 local volunteers and support them in the creation of Reading Aloud groups and book groups all over the city – from schools to residential care facilities and from coffee shops to community centres.
Reading aloud makes reading a social experience, an entertainment and a way to spend time with others, sharing ideas.
The Verbal Arts Centre currently has 20 reading rooms for older people, men's mental health groups, female mental health groups and young people.