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Lotto winners mark decade of charity

It's been a decade since South Yorkshire's biggest-hearted lottery winners scooped their life-changing win. But, as Sarah Dunn discovers, Ray and Barbara Wragg are still the same down-to-earth couple they've always been.

IT CHANGED their lives - but not the people they are.

Ten years to the day on from Ray and Barbara Wragg's momentous 7.6 million Lottery win, the couple remain the Sheffielders they always were - and undoubtedly always will be.

The years in between have seen flash cars, exotic holidays and a luxury new home, not just for themselves but also for their growing family.

But they've also been shaped by an overriding theme of philanthropy, which has resulted in 5.5 million of their jackpot being given away to relatives, friends and countless good causes.

Charities both local and national have benefited from cash boost after cash boost because of the Wraggs' generosity, donating both their money and time to make a difference to the lives of some of society's most vulnerable and needy people.

Looking back on that Saturday night which changed all others to come, Ray said: "We didn't have the same numbers each week so we didn't know they were our numbers coming out.

"Barbara always checks them afterwards, so she was doing that while teasing me that I'd promised her we'd win some money. She hadn't been feeling too well and didn't want to go to work the following night.

"Then she said 'We've won'. I'm telling her, 'No we haven't', and she just keeps saying, 'Yes we have!' We got Teletext up trying to find out how many other winners there were, and then Barbara's sister came on the phone. She double-checked the numbers with us and said, 'You're not going to believe it but you're the only winners and the jackpot is 7.6 million!'

"We just couldn't believe it. We were utterly speechless."

The modest plans to buy their council house and pay off their three children's mortgages - hastily discussed before they knew the extent of their winnings - went out of the window.

Instead they moved off the Jordanthorpe estate where they had raised children Mark, Shaun and Amanda, and settled in Whirlow - dishing out money to their nearest and dearest as they went.

Ray retired from his job as a contract supervisor with a local roofing company on the very night of the win, and nurse Barbara never did have to go in for that shift at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital the following day.

Soon afterwards their charity work began - work which has landed them the title 'nicest Lottery winners ever', and even their picture on the wall in Weston Park Museum in an exhibition celebrating Sheffield heroes.

Ray, now 72, said: "We knew right from the start we would give away a lot of what we'd won. Now, looking back, we've had a fantastic time doing it."

Ray and Barbara, 69, have made pledged money to scores of charitable causes.

Their 'top three' include 10,000 donations towards Sheffield Children's Hospital's first MRI scanner and Weston Park Hospital's Teenage Cancer Unit, as well as the 12,500 they paid to send 60 Monte Cassino veterans back to the area where they fought so bravely.

In between there's been everything from a new trampoline at Bents Green School to a revamp of Brendan Ingle's boxing gym when it was targeted by vandals, and TVs for individual beds at the Children's Hospital. Each year they also take a group of kids to the pantomime at Christmas, and pay for a group of 12 youngsters to enjoy a week at Whirlow Hall Farm.

They've collected money at pubs and restaurants, attended balls, and footed the bar bill at a host of parties where guests contributed a donation to their chosen charity instead.

Barbara also paid out 9,000 to pay for a bladder scanner to be used on her old ward at the Hallamshire, and there have been donations to the Make A Wish Foundation - sending terminally ill children on trips of a lifetime - as well as Childline, and Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice.

In December 2007 they also paid 5,000 towards the flight home of James Challenger, who was seriously injured in a motorbike accident in Bahrain, and in 2001 Ray raised 4,000 for the Teenage Cancer Unit by abseiling down the side of the Hallamshire Hospital.

Their most recent good deeds include donating hampers to Park Hill Lodge in Maltby, a care home for people with learning disabilities, and members of an old folks' club run each week at Shiregreen Community Centre by Help The Aged.

To mark their 10 year anniversary Camelot also decided to give them a present they knew the couple would love - a cheque for 1,000 to give to a charity of their choice.

Ray and Barbara, who celebrate their golden wedding anniversary next year, have decided to give 500 to the Help for Heroes charity, and 500 to the Children's Hospital scanner appeal.

Ray said there was no better feeling in the world than seeing the difference their money has made.

"It's seeing the change on people's faces, the smile that lights up there - it's like they are opening their Christmas presents, whatever time of year it is," he said.

"You cannot put a price on the expressions on their faces. It's also about knowing things like if a child gets injured in Sheffield, they're going to have use of that MRI scanner and the best possible chances available."

Aside from their charity work, the past decade has seen a host of other highlights.

From a Buckingham Palace garden party in 2008 to being guests on BBC Breakfast with Natasha Kaplinsky and on the sofa with Fiona Phillips on GMTV, the Wraggs have seen some sights they would never have dreamed of.

They've also taken part in the TV gameshow Ready Steady Cook - described by Ray as a "great laugh" - and taken cruises all over the globe.

Flying is out because Barbara suffers from claustrophobia, but it's not stopped them seeing the world including everywhere from New York to the Caribbean.

In between they've given their time offering support and pearls of wisdom to other Lottery winners, and have also given talks about their experiences at various community groups around Sheffield - in return for a charitable donation, of course.

There's also been the odd scare - in 2004 Ray was treated for a skin cancer tumour above his eyebrow.

Throughout it all Ray is clear that he and Barbara - the Sheffielders born and bred who grew up in Park and Shalesmoor - remain the same people.

"What we always say is that it's changed our life, but not our personalities," the grandfather-of-five said. "Family is still the most important thing to us, and we still go about with the same group of friends.

"But we've had a fantastic time - we've enjoyed every second."

It's a view shared by Anya Reynolds from Camelot.

She said: "They are genuinely the most kindhearted people - you cannot help but warm to them.

"I don't think there are any other Lottery winners quite like them."

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