About a week ago we decided to try and catch up with last year's dollar total as of December 31, 1979. That figure was $80,348.43.

We're going to be close, but as I've been known to say, "Catching up -- or just staying even -- is not getting ahead." And, unfortunately, we're a little behind in our 1980-81 annual charity drive to provide money for free or low-cost medical treatment of needy children at Children's Hospital.

Several themes are emphasized during this annual fund-raiser. Three of those themes are: The need to increase the amount collected each year to offset the effects of inflation; the holiday time of the year as the natural time for giving; and the hospital's care obligation that never diminishes.

If it seems like I'm beating a dead horse, then you've never experienced the magic of the mail pipeline or the response that a phrase or sentence or idea can provoke. Right now I'm just trying to spark the hearts of District Liners in an effort to make this year's campaign another record-breaker.

So, without further ado, here's today's honor roll of area group and organizational contributors.

Leading the pack was a $10 check from Medical Service Consultants Inc. of Arlington. Sending $15 were members of the Stonegate Citizens Association. Their president wrote:

"My daughter had surgery at Children's Hospital a few months ago, and I join those who praise the facility and their approach to handling the patients' needs."

That is the voice of experience.

A $50 check arrived from the Mid-Atlantic Sporting Goods Association, and $52 came from employes of the Division of Compliance and Industry Programs at the FDA's Bureau of Foods. They gathered their funds in lieu of exchanging Christmas cards. Using the same method, the folks over at NASA's Network Operations Control Branch (Code 851) in Greenbelt delivered $55.

"The ladies of the Children's Department of Lord and Taylor, Falls Church, wish to make this contribution to Children's Hospital." They sent $70.

Sending $75 was the Lewisdale Citizens' Association. Of that amount, $50 represented their annual gift, and the remaining $25 was sent in memory of a recently deceased wife of one of the board members. That's an appropriate gesture. Thank you all.

The Criminal Justice Services Section of NRTA -- AARP sent the children $82. Instead of exchanging gifts, the staff of the controller's division of American Security Bank collected $90 for our hospital.

Triple-digits were scored first this morning by the Army Mutual Aid Association's 33 employes. They combined efforts to send $103. A check for the odd amount of $106.58 represented "the harvest from the seventh annual Money Tree erected at Peoples Drug Store No. 288."

The Fairfax County Air Pollution Control Office drive this year netted $140. Of that total, a check for $10 came from my grandfather, an "ex-officio" member of the APC unit.

Two checks for $150 hit my mailbox today. One came from the coffee fund and staff of the Education Department's Office of Management Evaluation, and the other arrived courtesy of the GPO's Term Contracts Section of the General Specifications Division.

Yet a third government agency, the Labor Department's Office of Program Management in the Unemployment Insurance Service, contributed $162.50. And a fourth, the IRS's Examination Division of the Office of International Operations, sent $250.

Staff members of HUD's Office of Single Family Housing and Mortgage Activities carried on a decade-old tradition by foregoing Christmas cards in favor of Children's Hospital. They collected $560!

Finally, an old friend at the Harry F. Duncan Foundation Inc. sent $1,000 and hoped I would surpass last year figure of just over $231,000. With help like that, maybe we will.

But not today! My tally shows that 18 area groups or employers contributed $3,121.08 this morning to the free care fund at Children's. As always, I'll add that to the $70,242.03 already in the shoebox, giving us an end-of-year figure of $73,363.11.

I'm not going to dwell on our less-than-last-year's performance. I'll just stick in that old address.

Please send your tax-deductible check, payable to Children's Hospital, to: Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. I'll be waiting.