Little children can't really be expected to understand adult concepts like "needy" and "help," can they?

They sure can, as you'll soon see.

"We want to give 25 cents to the sick kids," began one of four letters from fourth graders at Burrows Elementary School in Quantico. The envelope contained 66 cents. Another letter, with 6 cents taped to it, read, "I think it would be nice to donate money to children.I might just bring 12 cents every day, six cents for milk and six cents to donate." Two other letters contained 92 more cents and similar messages.

Letters like these are part of the very satisfying work I inherited from Bill Gold. He passed this labor of love down to me, and it's been a truly rewarding experience.

An additional $5 was sent from staffers at the Laurel Elementary School to be added to their previous contribution. Keep up the good work.

Another group of industrious young students, these from a class at the Dale City School, collected aluminum cans worth $18.88. They contributed half to the hospital, the other half to needy families in Prince William County.

The staff at the Youth Educational Center in Kensington, an alternative learning environment for high school students, sent $12. A check for $15 was sent in honor of the student assistants of Madison Hall Sub School in Alexandria. Members of the Future Homemakers of America at Manassa Park High School raised $25 by making and selling caramel popcorn and apples at their Homecoming game.

"We are sorry we don't have more to give, but what we do have, we give willingly and gladly," was the message included with $30.50 from a sixth grade class at Oakton Elementary. Its tone is typical of the heart-warming concern shared by children all over Our Town for others less fortunate than themselves.

Determined to exceed their previous gifts to Children's Hospital, third graders at the Cresthaven School in Silver Spring did enough extra chores at home to achieve their goal. They earned $32. My hat is off to them.

Employees of the George Washington University Personnel Department teamed up for a second-year contribution of $33.Members of two fourth grade classes at Taylor Elementary School in Arlington had "no party, no gift exchange" so that they could send $36.25 to help the hospital provide free medical care to needy children.

The children who participate in these expressions of concern for the needy warm my heart. I was told when I signed on for this job that I'd be deeply touched by the letters that accompany gifts to Children's Hospital. bI heard the words of warning, but I didn't really understand them until I began to hear from little children whose top concern at Christmas time was to help other, less fortunate, children.

Members of the St. Thomas More High School CCD class collected $42.65 with door-to-door caroling. A total of $52.96 was gathered by members of the Damascus Dance Centre, and sent along with this suggestion:

"You might remind the thousands of area teachers of the potential they hold, according to their students' inclinations, to remember Children's Hospital in some way at Christmas and again at the end of the school term."

Teachers, you are hereby reminded that just a word from you can work wonders and, at the same time, provide a splendid lesson in community affairs and concern.

The administrative staff of the District school system's Division of Student Services chipped in $62.The faculty and staff at Brown Station Elementary diverted $75 by not exchanging holiday cards among themselves. Also sending $75 were the teachers at Hutchinson Elementary.

"Please accept this contribution of $95.29 from the hands and hearts of the students and staff of Stenwood Elementary School in Vienna," began the next letter. "This is my first year as head of the Children's Hospital drive in my school. If has been a pleasure for me, and I hope your first year has been equally enjoyable." It has. Thanks.

Another letter from Taylor Elementary School arrived containing $315 from the faculty and staff. The money was saved for Children's by forgoing an intramural exchange of Christmas cards. Using the same method, the faculty of Springbrook High School raised $375 for the free care fund.

Five members of the faculty and staff at Georgetown University Law Center contributed $515 to Children's Hospital. Hear ye, hear ye! What a fine show of support for the children.

These 19 schools and educational organizations contributed $1,807.73. Inasmuch as there was $130,578.03 in the shoebox when we began today's report, our total to date now stands at $132,385.76.

Students and educators, I thank you. Year after year, you've been tops.