Nearly a third of all money spent on The National Lottery goes to good causes - including projects to help young people

While 28p in isolation may seem relatively small, this has meant that in the past 11 years, over £17bn has been raised in the UK for the wide-ranging National Lottery Good Causes. This has resulted in awards to the arts, sports, environment, heritage, communities, education and charities.

Becoming an overnight millionaire is an exciting dream, but the effect that £17bn has on a person's life is a heart-warming reality. This year, National Lottery Day activities will raise the profile of projects for children and young people, which have benefited from an incredible £9bn since The National Lottery launched in 1994.

The Mini Me project, for instance, saw celebrities and sports people come together to share their specialised experience with young people, helped by National Lottery funds.

Edward Tyhurst, a 17-year-old archaeology student, was part of a team from Tideway School in East Sussex given £9,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The team used the money to create a digital guide to Newhaven Fort.

"The Lottery money paid for all the equipment that was essential to putting the guide together. I was allowed access to areas the public doesn't often get to see, which was really exciting."

Edward also had the chance to help presenter Tony Robinson on the set of the archaeological TV show, Time Team. The knock-on effect benefits the public, too. Edward says, "It's great to see lottery funding making heritage sites accessible to people who may never have the chance to visit them."

This is just one of 200,000 grants that The National Lottery has awarded in the UK - collectively the largest programme of civic regeneration since the 19th century. Its very nature is geared towards the future.

"It was a great honour to meet Chris Hoy," says Shane Charlton, a 16-year-old cyclist from Scotland. Shane's ambitions were nurtured in a masterclass with the Commonwealth champion. "Hopefully I'll be able to follow in Chris's footsteps in the future," he says. "My aim is to compete in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2012 London Olympics."

Scottish Cycling has received £242,860 over the last year. Shane also receives help through the Athlete Support Programme, funded by The National Lottery.

Since walking into Plymouth Central Park swimming pool and seeing the diving boards at the age of eight, Thomas Daley has known where his future lies. The Lottery has invested £36,000 into the pool and also supports Olympic silver medallist, Leon Taylor, also Thomas's mentor. Leon says, "lottery funding allows children to develop in their sport." Thomas trains morning and evening in his bid to represent his country on home soil in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Green-fingered Rachel Gallagher from St Malachy's Primary School in Belfast is one of thousands of budding conservationists. Recently, she met Shauna Lowry, former presenter of BBC's Animal Hospital, at a day celebrating the work of the lottery funded Conservation Volunteers. Shauna says, "It's fantastic to see young people take an active role in looking after the environment and great to see that the Lottery is funding organisations that are dealing with global issues on a community level."

A social conscience is a must for young people and funding grassroots projects provides the vitality needed to turn dreams into reality. That's not about luck, that's about time and investment.

Pictures clockwise from left: cyclists Shane Charlton and Chris Hoy; Edward Tyhurst and Time Team's Tony Robinson; ecologists Rachel Gallagher and Shauna Lowry; Thomas Daley and Leon Taylor poolside

Best Buds

Lottery funding has given 10-year-old Caitlin Brown's passion for the environment a much-needed helping hand

The environment isn't just for adults to worry about. If children aren't aware of their world, they won't grow up caring enough to make a difference, a scenario that will have lasting consequences for the planet. Caitlin Brown (above) is in no danger of that, at 10 years-old, she's a keen environmentalist.

Caitlin attends Nature Detectives, a scheme funded by The National Lottery that teaches thousands of children across the UK how to recognise what's happening in their own environment. The clubs help children learn about their surroundings and discover that changes in nature can provide hints about the seasons and an evolving environment. Everything they uncover about their surroundings is recorded into a national database: reams of information for the next generation.

"I love learning about the environment," Caitlin says. "I'm glad I have the chance to go to Nature Detectives. It's taught me how to care for our environment and the sessions are really fun and interesting."

Proof that subjects like climate change aren't just the domain of adults, Caitlin is also getting the chance to quiz experts. Chris Beardshaw, environmentalist, campaigner and gardener, is visiting the scheme to shed light on anything they're grappling with in their quest to unravel nature. It's a significant idea, he thinks. "From an early age I knew that I wanted to work with plants," he says. "It's fantastic that children and young people have the opportunity to further their environmental awareness."