The challenge issued yesterday concerning contributions to Children's Hospital in honor of the 52 Americans recently freed from captivity in Iran has already sparked the following patriotic response:

"It sure does look discouraging for the Children's Hospital fund right now. Maybe the enclosed check will help a little. It is computed as follows:

"52 hostages times 444 days is $230.88, and in memory of the eight would-be rescuers who died, $80, which equals $310.88."

Our contributor concluded with the wish that her check "could be $31,088, but I am a Democrat."

And a very generous one at that!

Joining her today were 26 other anonymous individuals. They sent personal checks totaling $948.88 to be added to our shoebox for delivery to Children's Hospital.

The free-care fund at Children's, may I remind you, is available to needy children of every race, color and creed who may require expensive medical treatment but may not have the family resources necessary to pay for such care. The hospital relies on the folks of Our Town to help offset this "built-in deficit" by appealing for charitable funds during the winter holiday season.

Responding to the appeal this morning were several area groups, employers and organizations.

Ten-year participants, the American Council of Life Insurance, forwarded a check for $25 in memory of an employe's mother who passed away recently. The ACLI had previously sent in its regular annual gift.

Staffers at the Office of the Historian in the State Department's Bureau of Public Affairs continued a tradition they began last year with a check of $25.50 for Children's Hospital. Their own history of concern and charity is bound to get longer.

Two different offices of the Internal Revenue Service took us into triple digit territory today. For the 10th consecutive year, members of the Legislation & Regulations Division, Branch 3, Office of Chief Counsel, contributed to Children's Hospital in lieu of exchanging Christmas cards. Their effort netted $118.

The revenuers employed by the Technical Services Branch of the IRS used the same system to collect $138 "as a means of assisting Children's Hospital." Many thanks!

The "in lieu of" method also worked well for the folks of the Reprographics Department of Automation Industries Inc.'s Vitro Laboratories Division. They gathered $240, and noted that 1981 was "the tenth consecutive year we have done this."

There's no friends like old friends.

Another group of second-year particpats, employes of the Washington office of Network Analysis Corp., expect "our contributions to grow as our currently small office grows." Their gift of $260 "represents contributions by many, well in excess of greeting card savings."

Taking the heavyweight crown this morning were thr originators of the following letter:

"As you might expect, philantropy and precision go hand in hand at a research organization.

"So , the Center for Naval Analyses, an affiliate of the University of Rochester, is pleased to point out that the enclosed $561.35 for Children's Hospital represents an increase of something like 29.0597 percent over last year's contribution.

"Next year we'll try for more money and, incidentally, more decimal places." Fantastic!

The seven super groups above mailed $1,367.85 to our shoebox coffer. Adding that to the private contributions of $948.88 gives us a daily figure of $2,316.73. Inasmuch as the shoebox held $159,076.58 yesterday, it stands to reason that it must hold $161,393.31 right now.

Last year on today's date the shoebox held a total of $173,689.40. We're still being plagued by the deficit of about $10,000 that was sadly established at some early point in this year's campaign. We still have our two big guns coming up -- Ma Bell and the Navy -- which will give us a considerable boost. But a new record this year is starting to look unlikely.

It's not impossible, though. Can that same old address put some magic in our mail pipeline. Let's try it. Please send your tax-deductible check, made payable to Children's Hospital, to: Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

It won't take a miracle for us to beat last year's record of $231,230.13. All it will take is concern.