As we near the end of the momentous year that was 2012, we can look back on a time of celebrating all things British. But while we're reflecting on the Queen's 60 year reign, applauding our incredible Team GB athletes or heralding the return of James Bond to our cinema screens, we must not overlook the plethora of unsung heroes working miracles in our communities every day.
For 18 years The National Lottery has been funding Good Causes across the UK. Every week National Lottery players raise £30 million for a wide variety of projects across the arts, sport, heritage, charity, health, education and the environment. While huge projects like the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and, of course, The London 2012 Games, are supported by Lottery funding, most grants are for less than £10,000 and provide vital support to communities.
Behind each of these projects are innovative individuals who have been inspired to create and deliver a much needed service for their community. It could be restoring a local park, organising music workshops for the elderly or introducing new sporting opportunities. These people are using Lottery funding to make a life-changing difference to people across the UK.
People like Mike Wallace in Lochgelly who used £5000 of Lottery funding to set up Drumatik, an inclusive community drumming group. Mike's ambition was to create a drumming group that would be recognised for the quality of music and skill of the drummers, and not be patronised because many of the members have a learning disability. The results have been a resounding success and Drumatik offers a social lifeline to people who may have previously been isolated from the community.
We should celebrate the incredible achievements of people who are not afraid to step up and try something new. People who notice something lacking in their area and instead of grumbling about it, roll up their sleeves and do something proactive. People who value team work, recognising that, as American author Helen Keller once said, alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
Anyone bemoaning the lack of community spirit in Britain today should take a look at these people who are doing something wonderful for the benefit of others. What's more, many of the projects have indirect benefits too, be that - providing employment, learning opportunities or a much-needed confidence boost for those who participate.
PLUGGED IN magazine, based in Pontypridd, South Wales, was set up by husband and wife team Darren Warner and Gayle Griffiths. The enterprise gives budding young writers and photographers the chance to see their work published in a quality magazine distributed throughout Wales. Set up with a grant of £3800, the magazine allows contributors to showcase their talents and build a portfolio to present to prospective colleges and employers.
The National Lottery has awarded over 390,000 grants since inception, amounting to over £29billion of funding. If you take a walk around your local community, chances are you'll come across scores of projects that have benefited from Lottery funding. There really is something for everyone:
• From helping Mo Farrah on his journey to double Olympic gold to enabling a small child learn to swim.
• From investing in Oscar-winning films like The King's Speech to funding a theatre group for deaf children.
• From restoring our much-loved Cutty Sark or Hadrian's Wall to regenerating thousands of public parks where we run, play and enjoy life.
• From over £60million for the Eden Project which regenerated a whole region to less than £60 to repair a trumpet so a brass band can continue to make music.
So let's raise a toast to 18 years of investing in our communities. Big or small, National Lottery grants have been making an immeasurable difference to people's lives. I'm looking forward to what the next 18 years will bring.
To find out more about how The National Lottery has been changing lives for 18 years, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk
Follow National Lottery Good Causes on twitter www.twitter.com/lottogoodcauses
Follow Peter Wanless on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peterwanless