Five inspirational tales you’ve never heard about The National Lottery

By playing The National Lottery, you are helping to raise £30million* every single week for good causes.

And during the current coronavirus crisis, that contribution is more important than ever as people, projects and communities navigate these challenging times.

Below we've caught up with five people whose lives have been transformed by funding from The National Lottery. We'll be telling their incredible stories in even greater detail over the coming weeks both in print and online.

'I'm more grateful for things since losing both my legs'

Former British Army medic Simon Harmer lost both legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan – yet within just two months he was able to stand on prosthetic legs.

The 44-year-old puts the speed of his recovery down to a combination of his own determination, the encouragement of other injured soldiers at the Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey and the expertise of the medical staff looking after him.

Since leaving the army in 2014, he has used his hard-won experience to talk about resilience and overcoming adversity to audiences at schools, universities, prisons and corporations. And he’s also the star of the new National Lottery TV ad  (above) highlighting the £30million for good causes raised every week by National Lottery players like you.

Simon says National Lottery-supported organisations like The Royal British Legion, SSFA and Blesma – a charity devoted to helping servicemen and women who have lost limbs – play a vital role in assisting veterans through a range of initiatives including community activities, memorial visits and employment and welfare advice. Since The National Lottery began in 1994 over £339million has been awarded to over 28,000 projects supporting veterans.

Simon believes that suffering a life-changing injury made him acutely aware that, “you can’t move through life on your own – you need a team who are there for you.”

He added: "It [almost losing his life] makes you more grateful for things. I try to live my life as a bit of a thank you to the people who got me back on my feet and in the 12 years since I was injured that number runs into the thousands."

'Football saved my life – it's been there for me at my darkest moments'

When Eliza Hickey steps out onto the pitch as a member of one of Aston Villa’s Ability Counts teams, she finally feels able to express herself.

That's because the 16-year-old is on the spectrum, has ADHD and is hyper-sensitive to smell and touch. She struggles with anxiety and has a tendency to overthink situations.

But joining the Aston Villa Ability Counts team has provided her with some incredible experiences – not least scoring two goals in front of 30,000 cheering fans during a half-time exhibition match at Wolves’ Molineux Stadium.

Aston Villa Ability Counts was able to increase its focus on women’s disability football in 2018 when the Aston Villa Foundation obtained National Lottery funding to establish four new disability teams.

Brave Eliza, from Birmingham, said the impact of playing has been life-changing. She explained: "Football has pretty much saved my life to be honest. It’s a part of my life that has been consistent and under my control. I know what I can do with a ball and the sport has been there for me at my darkest moments.

"When I score I get a rush – it’s incredible. It’s a proper sense of achievement, that you’ve done something for yourself and your team."

'Nothing beats a cuddle from a dog!'

When Sheila Moody’s husband died six years ago, the 91-year-old began to feel desperately lonely.

Living in a rural part of County Durham with no family close to hand, the former publican yearned for the company of a dog, but felt unable to give it regular walks.

Then one day her prayers were answered when four-legged company arrived in the shape of Eddie – 'a wonderful black lurcher' – who paid his first visit to Sheila four years ago accompanied by his owner, Diane.

The visit was arranged by Wag & Company, a National Lottery-funded charity that provides older dog lovers with a dose of canine company in their own homes, in care homes and in hospitals.

Sheila said: "When Eddie turned up on my doorstep it was paradise.

"I’ll cook him some chicken, because he loves chicken. Sometimes Diane and I will have lunch together and if it’s a nice day we’ll take Eddie out for a walk.

"I think I was a dog in a previous life. If you‘ve always had dogs like me nothing beats a cuddle from a dog!"

'Meeting animals has made Harry happier and calmer'

Children can face anything from a challenging home life to extreme anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but with help from The National Lottery, HugglePetsCIC is putting their animals to work to help solve their problems.

Schoolboy Harry Dews, has seen his confidence and happiness soar since becoming involved in HugglePetsCIC therapy sessions.

HugglePetsCIC has a huge range of animals they bring to their animal therapy sessions including a tortoise, bearded dragon, rabbit and even a snail nicknamed ‘Gary the gangster.’

The 14-year-old, from Ormiston New Academy in Wolverhampton, is pictured above meeting Georgie, a bearded dragon lizard. He said: "The sessions have made me feel better and I love Tuesdays and meeting all the animals."

And his mum Jennifer has seen a real difference in her son as a result. She added: "Harry is happier and calmer in himself and his anxiety levels have decreased no end since starting the HugglePetsCIC’s sessions."

Thanks to funding from The National Lottery, HugglePetsCIC have taken their animals on the road and are running workshops with school children in the Wolverhampton area.

'Without Veterans Aid I don’t know where I’d be'

As a former member of the Welsh Guards who fought in the Falklands War, Martin knows more than most about the limits of human endurance.

But when the 58-year-old found himself destitute and homeless after a heart arrhythmia left him unable to work, the proud Welshman admits he had some bleak thoughts.

Martin gradually depleted his savings and eventually had to move out of his rented flat and begin sleeping on a friend’s sofa. By the time the coronavirus lockdown began he was becoming desperate.

Help arrived in the shape of a National Lottery-supported charity called Veterans Aid. They found him a room in a hotel, then more permanent rental accommodation in west London.

Martin said: "Veterans Aid are the cornerstone of where I am today. Without them I really don’t know where I’d be. What they did has put me on the map again. It was all so fast I had to pinch myself that it was really happening."

Some of these inspiring individuals and projects feature in the new advert from The National Lottery (above) which celebrates a host of good causes across the UK.

None of their amazing work would be possible without you, the players. By playing The National Lottery you raise £30million for good causes every week.

*Based on figures from April 2019-March 2020.  Players must be 16+.

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