A YOUNG girl from Southgate with severe physical disabilities was "delighted and excited" to hear she would be starring in the BBC's Children in Need programme.

Jessica Kelly, five, from Norman Way, was born with Nemaline Myopathy, which means she has muscle weakness all over her body, cannot walk or swallow and has difficulty breathing.

Over the past two years, Noah's Ark Children's Hospice has provided volunteers to help with her care once a week.

The charity, which supports terminally ill children in north London and Hertfordshire, was one of four organisations chosen by Children in Need to appear on their BBC London programme this Friday.

Children in Need have given Noah's Ark a three-year grant of £54,000 to subsidise their Family Support Volunteer (FSV) scheme.

Jessica's father, 35-year-old Steve Kelly, who gave up work four years ago to care full-time for his daughter, spoke enthusiastically of the charity's help.

He said: "It is a wonderful thing to be able to be with Jessica at home, and take her to nursery and school, but it does take its toll.

"You get exhausted quickly and don't have much of a social life as lots of groups don't cater for children like Jessica.

"Noah's Ark have been such an enormous help to us. Before they turned up, only my wife and I could be alone with Jessica, so we had to take separate holidays.

"If I wanted to go out or just switch off for a moment, I couldn't. Now I don't have to worry."

Steve and his wife, Rachel, also have an 18-month-old son, Jamie, who is able-bodied but "a handful".

Caring for both children, said Mr Kelly, would be almost impossible without the help of Noah's Ark volunteer Erin, who joins the family once a week.

"Jamis is very lively and always pulling at things, so sometimes things can get a little fraught.

"I feel a lot happier knowing we have an extra pair of hands.

"Sometimes I could have been in the house for weeks without going out. You realise that just silly things, like going to the corner shop for a can of drink, can make all the difference."

When Jessica was invited to represent Noah's Ark on television, her parents jumped at the chance - but admit their daughter is better at coping with the limelight than they are.

"We were very nervous, very self-conscious," Mr Kelly said.

"I look terrible and sound like the Godfather because I had a throat problem, so lots of my friends have ripped the mickey.

"But we were very happy to be there to show our support for such a great organisation.

"And when Jessica saw it on the news, she was delighted. She was especially excited when she saw herself on her own in the shot."

Diane Parry, Noah's Ark fundraising development manager, said: "With grants from organisations such as Children in Need and the continued generosity of our supporters, Noah’s Ark has been able to make a significant difference to many families through respite play and the FSV scheme.

"The value of all this support cannot be underestimated and expanding its capacity is a priority for us in 2010."

For more information on Noah's Ark Children's Hospice call 020 8449 8877 or visit www.noahsarkhospice.org.uk.