A tradition of giving to Children’s Hospital

John Kelly
Columnist December 28, 2011

This week between Christmas and New Year’s is the perfect time to relax, take it easy and assess — unless, of course, you are a college football player getting ready for a bowl game, which I’m assuming none of you is.

One of the things I always assess this week is how we’re faring in our annual fund drive for Children’s National Medical Center. I know that the frenetic pace of the holidays — all that shopping, traveling, entertaining, regifting — means that many people put off donating. They are simply too busy. I also know that many people want to donate during this calendar year so they can take a deduction on their next tax return.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

That makes this week so important. It’s the calm after the storm, but before the IRS deadline.

It’s also the perfect time for me to explain the fundraising campaign to people who may wonder what the heck is going on. Why, they wonder, did my column suddenly turn into an episode of “House”?

The tradition goes back to the 1940s and the very first person to write a daily column in The Post about life in and around our city: Bill Gold. Bill reasoned that many Washingtonians were filled with the desire to give but didn’t know where to start. His idea: Children’s Hospital. It’s hard not to support a place whose sole mission is to help sick kids.


The Children's National Medical Center (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Early on, Bill’s readers donated things such as postage stamps, street car tokens and cash. By the time Bill retired and Bob Levey took over the column, things were more professional. But the campaign was the same: a homegrown, grass-roots effort.

The ultimate goal of the campaign is still the same, too: All of the money we raise goes to the hospital’s uncompensated care fund. This is money that is used to pay the medical bills of children who do not have adequate insurance.

Who donates? All sorts of people. I hear from parents who know that a monetary donation can never be adequate thanks for saving the life of their child, but are still moved to give. I hear from parents who thought their son or daughter was the only person to have a rare disease or congenital birth defect, until they read about another boy or girl being treated at Children’s.

I hear from parents whose children have never been sick a day in their lives but who can imagine all too well the pain other moms and dads go through and just want to help.

I like a good mystery. I like people who love their jobs. I like stories with happy endings. All of these things come together at Children’s Hospital. When I write these columns over the holidays — as I’ve done since 2004 — I try to showcase the work that’s done there. Of course, no matter the specific subject, the bottom line is the same: I hope you will donate.

I realize these last few years have not been easy ones financially. But I also think that most of us can afford to give something. And I firmly believe that I would rather have more people giving smaller amounts than fewer people giving bigger amounts. Why? Because the thing I most detest hearing about Washington is that we are a city of transients, with nothing to bind us but a mediocre football team. People from all parts of Washington — suburban and urban, rich and poor — come together at Children’s Hospital. Isn’t it wonderful that the same mix of people supports it?

So, in this week when we’ve gathered with loved ones, when we’re poised between the old year and the new, when the days are finally, imperceptibly, getting longer, please take a breath, assess and give.

You can make a tax-deductible donation by going to washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital or sending a check (payable to Children’s Hospital) to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.

This year Geoff Tracy, founder of the Chef Geoff’s family of restaurants and a longtime supporter of Children’s Hospital, is thanking donors. Give $250 or more and you will receive a $20 gift certificate to one of his restaurants, including Chef Geoff’s, Chef Geoff’s Downtown, Chef Geoff’s Tysons and Lia’s. We’ll mail the coupons in February and they must be used within three months.

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