Yesterday was too soon after the night before to begin a new assault on the goodness of District Liners. Everyone knows that the problems of the '70s will not disappear with the dawn of the '80s. But the prospect of change, how ever remote, creates the mood to take a fresh look and make a new start.
One of the problems close at hand is the "built-in deficit" that continually plagues our very own Children's Hospital National Medical Center. The cause of this deficit is clearly spelled out in the hospital's charter, granted in 1870.
The charter obligates the hospital to provide ". . . the gratuitous medical and surgical treatment of indigent children without distinction of race, sex or creed . . . ."
A modernized version of the original charter's language says essentially the same thing. The hospital "provides total pediatric care to children from birth through 18 years of age regardless of race, creed, geographic boundaries or essentially the parents' ability to pay." r
Regardless of the parents' ability to pay -- that's the essence of Children's Hospital. Providing free or partially reimbursed medical care to needy children has remained the hospital's primary focus since its founding 110 years ago.
The dedication to this obligation and the skill and pride in accomplishment radiated by the entire staff attracted Bill Gold to the hospital 30 years ago.
His ceaseless efforts have made supporting and funding Children's Hospital the favorite cause for countless Washington residents, former and current patients, and those who want to preserve the integrity of a very rare organization.
For those three decades, District Liners young and old have combined forces to battle that built-in deficit. That battle can never be won. It can never be finished. The need will continue as long as there are children who require medical help.
But the satisfaction of a gratifying trend of unbroken annual increases in the amount of money contributed by the people of Our Town gives reassurance that the battle will continue and that the needy will be served.
Several readers have asked me how I became involved in the hospital's fund drive. The answer is simple enough: I was assigned to the job. Unless you, too, have been a young writer hoping for an opportunity to break into print, you can't appreciate what a wonderful surprise that assignment was for me.
Here's how it came about: Bill spends more than a full work day on each of his columns. He frets about the subject matter, he spends hours on the telephone, he agonizes over the the writing and rewriting. As the years wear on, he says the work gets harder, not easier, because the writer himself becomes harder to please.
When Dec. 1 arrived each year, and with the extras hours required to handle the Children's Hospital mail, the old workhorse began to sag little.In the summer of 1979 the sag was so pronounced that he was ready to retire.
That's when Lady Luck smiled my way. They told me I had been chosen to ease Bill's work load by taking over the Children's Hospital campaign. They actually assigned me to do something -- for pay -- that I would have been happy to do as a volunteer. I couldn't believe it.
Working with Bill on these "For the Love of Children" columns has given me an emotional lift as well as some postgraduate insights into how reporters really work. Bill's stamina amazes me, especially on the long nights that turn into days when we sit together in front of a video display screen and discuss English usage, the turn of a phrase, the subtle connotations that cause a journeyman to select this word rather than that one.
He never fades, but occassionally he has to nudge me back to reality. And sometimes he finds it necessary to admonish me in a fatherly way for an unintentional deviation from the rules for disciplined writing that guide most hard-nosed journalists. By the time we finish the 1979-1980 campaign, I hope he'll think he had an apt pupil.
The contributions sent to the hospital through "For the Love of Children" are strictly limited to providing medical care to needy children. No funds are diverted into research, operating costs, or maintenance of the facility.
Not one penny of Bill's annual collections has ever been used to defray expenses incurred when the hospital relocated to the new building on Michigan Avenue. These restrictions can be accepted as articles of faith by all contributing District Liners.
To help ease Bill's work load, I was assigned to take over the fund-raising drive for Children's Hospital. The time and effort involved in opening, reading classifying, and coding your letters may seem minimal, but they are very real and had begun to require more hours than Bill could give them.
So opportunity knocked for me, and Bill was left free to turn out his usual column. He still maintains his interest in the fund drive, keeps a worried eye on the daily shoebox reports, and gets terribly grumpy when they are not as good as he had hoped.