There's nothing like a running start, and 33 Washington area groups and individuals have provided one. Since February, the 33 have contributed a total of $1,814.31 in "off-season" funds to our 1981-82 Children's Hospital drive, which began officially yesterday.

Perhaps the most hard-earned contribution of the off-season lot was the $95.86 gathered by Brenda Robins' kindergarten class at Farmland Elementary School in Rockville.

"My kindergarten class put on an annual circus," Brenda wrote. "These 29 five- and six-year-olds knew they were performing not only for themselves but for the benefit of other children. They were very proud of raising $95.86 for Children's Hospital."

The Robins contingent wasn't the only one from Farmland to forward a considerable sum. The fourth grade class of Ruble McFall and Ann Skamanyz raised $71.45 through a book drive. Rather than spend that sum on a party, the fourth-graders voted to give it to Children's just like their kindergarten colleagues.

Elsewhere on the school front, sixth grade students at Westmore Elementary in Fairfax donated $10 in proceeds from the paper store they run.

And students at McLean High School paid $20 in admission fees for the privilege of watching some columnist named Levey outspeed drama teacher John Duncan in a hard-fought two-fingered typing contest held last month.

The contest was put together by Deborah Smyth, adviser to the student newspaper, The Highlander. As John, Deb and I remarked after the competition, this younger generation is really something. They'll pay coin of the realm to watch two graying men do something the wrong way.

Still, it was a pleasure to pass McLean's check along to a hospital where they specialize in doing things the right way.

From Leon Office Machines Company came $100. From the Annandale/Springfield Welcome Wagon came $25. From the Directorate of Transportation, Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, came $20. From the Minerals and Metals Division of the U.S. International Trade Commission came $15.

The employes of Genco Tool and Engineering Company passed the hat at a Christmas party and came up with $32. So did five members of the Thursday DeChantal Ladies League of Congressional Plaza. They "decided to do our Easter penance" with a contribution of $46.

American Management Systems Inc. in Arlington had previously given the hospital $784. The employes kicked in a last-gasp $70 also.

"The gang" at Dictograph Security Systems in Bethesda sent $150. Goodfriend Temporaries in Wheaton sent $200. Engine 16 and Truck 3 of the D.C. Fire Department, both housedat 13th and K Streets NW, collected $291. And nine anonymous contributors mailed in another $273.

Two contributions of $20 each were assembled here at The Washington Post, although you could hardly imagine more different sets of circumstances.

On the fourth floor of the Post, employes of the composing room held a week of impromptu book sales to come up with their $20.

Meanwhile, on the fifth floor, where the news operation churns along, an editor found a $20 bill on the floor of the men's room over the summer. He gave it to Pat O'Shea, secretary to managing editor Howard Simons, in case someone came forward to claim it. When no one did, Simons ordered it turned over to the hospital -- which it was.

In addition to the $20 I helped raise by typing quickly and wrongly, I managed to raise another $20 for Children's in the off-season. In one way, my method was one I'd just as soon not re-use.

Usually, when a reader writes to a columnist to complain about his overblown style, the relationship is beyond hope. However, when that happened to me in October, I wrote back to my critic, who lives on Cathedral Avenue NW, and admitted that her "carping," as I called it, was correct. Just a case of excess enthusiasm, I assured the reader. I'd be more careful with the adjective machine in the future.

Imagine my surprise to discover a second letter from her three days later.

"Dear Bob Levey," it said. "You're right. I was carping. Mea culpa!! Am ashamed enough to be moved to send this modest enclosure for your kids at Children's Hospital."

How's that for turning a cloud into a silver lining?

To contribute to the campaign:

Make checks or money orders payable to Children's Hospital and mail them to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington D.C., 20071.