19/11/2014 12:43 GMT | Updated 19/01/2015 05:59 GMT

The Real National Lottery Winners

20 Years ago today a fresh-faced Noel Edmonds burst onto screens in the nation's living rooms and pressed the button for the first-ever National Lottery draw.

Sweaty ticket in hand millions of people tuned in to see if their lives were about to change forever - and for one lucky man in York, it did. Cue champagne corks and giant cheques aplenty as 3,600 millionaires later, the National Lottery has been changing lives up and down the country for the last two decades.

But that's just one side of the story. For the same two decades money raised by National Lottery players has been re-invested in local communities and national projects to the tune of an eye-watering £32billion.

Anyone who has ever bought a National Lottery ticket has helped to combat homelessness, tackle the stigma of mental health illness, inspired filmmakers, kept museums open and parks appealing. Yet many people would struggle to name a local National Lottery funded project.

As 'Euromillions' and 'Rollover' have become common vocabulary, today's teenagers have not experienced a world without the National Lottery and do not realise its profound impact on modern Britain. There are few facets of our society that haven't benefited.

Think of your last visit to a museum, the theatre or a sports centre, even your local park or playground - the chances are it has had Lottery money. The National Lottery has created thousands of jobs, more than a million training and volunteering opportunities and helped build vibrant, internationally renowned arts and film industries. It has provided the financial boost for communities up and down the UK to work together - community gardens, fun days, village halls and community shops.

During times of economic uncertainty, National Lottery funding has been the one constant for thousands of charities that look after society's most vulnerable. If you are homeless, disadvantaged, very young or very old, or a victim of violence or abuse, the chances are that the organisations that do such marvellous work to support you, are in turn supported by the National Lottery. Age UK, The Samaritans and Citizen's Advice may all be familiar names to you, but did you know they are financially supported by the National Lottery? What about the NSPCC, Scouts, and MIND?

There is often a common misconception that the National Lottery only funds large initiatives like the Eden project, Millennium Bridge and the Olympics and Paralympics. While it does support these incredible projects, over £700million has been spent making sure children have parks and open spaces to play in, £220million has improved sports facilities so we can all lead healthier lives, and more than £28million awarded to WW2 veterans to fund commemorative trips to countries where they served the nation.

Regenerating the Quayside in Newcastle, revitalising tourist attractions along the south coast and tackling deprivation in inner cities is a sweeping geographical glimpse at National Lottery funding at work across the country. Regardless of where you live in the UK you will have benefited - even if you don't realise it. Each postcode district has, on average, 138 National Lottery funded projects in it.

So whether you've scooped the Jackpot or not the biggest winners of the National Lottery are projects and charities near you. As we celebrate 20 years of changing lives, National Lottery players should feel proud that none of this would have been possible without them.