A team of National Lottery winners from across the region have been bringing smiles to the faces of young people with learning difficulties.

The eight winners, with a combined wealth of almost £10M, spent a day with young people at Ability Sports North East in Newcastle, building picnic benches and flower beds, planting a wildflower meadow and a new vegetable garden.

Ability Sports North East received £9,700 of National Lottery funding in August last year which was used to provide a vital lifeline for people suffering as a result of the pandemic. The money was invested in food parcels and tablets.

The charity’s base, Blaydon Youth and Community Centre, has also received £52k of National Lottery Funding to offer wider community support to those most in need.

Joining the day was Mark and Cheryl Brudenell, from Cleveland who won £1M on Lotto in 1997.

Mark said, “Fellow winners and I support numerous charities throughout the year and we were all delighted to work with Ability Sports Newcastle on this latest project.

“It was fantastic to work alongside the young people who will directly benefit from their new benches and the vegetable garden. Hopefully this is something which will bring them joy for many years to come.”

Brian Wood, who leads Ability Sports North East, added, “It has been a hugely successful day and we have really enjoyed working with the local National Lottery winners who have helped to make a real difference to the lives of these young people.

“We have previously not had any outdoor seating – these benches are a wonderful addition where the young people will be able to take time out to relax and enjoy their lunch in the sunshine. It is fabulous to think the young people have been able to work alongside the lottery winners and play an important role in building these benches.

“The vegetable garden is a fantastic addition too and will prove to be a vital resource, both in terms of being a direct link into our local food chain here at the centre – and providing an important education resource for all of our young people too!”

Among the winners taking part with Mark and Cheryl, were: Ian and Kim McCarthy, from Washington, who won £1M on EuroMillions in 2012; Margaret Storey, from Baildon, who won £1.4M on Lotto in 1998; Gary Henry, from County Durham, who won £4.4M on Lotto in 2008 and Trish Emson and Graham Norton, from Rotherham, who won £1.7M on Lotto in 2003.

By playing any National Lottery game, players generated an average of £36M each week for National Lottery-funded projects in 2020/21. This money helps support everything from the local charity making a difference where you live through to helping our nation’s athletes win Olympic and Paralympic gold medals.

To date, over £43BN has been raised and distributed to National Lottery Good Causes through more than 635,000 individual grants.

Thanks to National Lottery players, over £1.2BN is being used by charities and organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which includes over £600M in funding support from the National Lottery Community Fund which is being used to help groups best placed to support people and communities through the crisis.