People are always asking me what I mean by the Children's Hospital spirit. But I don't need to answer that, because so many readers already have. Here are the spirits that moved five readers to send checks to our annual fund-raising campaign on the hospital's behalf. Perhaps one of their spurs will spur you, too.

"We Know Who We Are" of Fairfax Station could have been forgiven if they had taken their $100 and blown it on a bottle of 312-year-old champagne. After all, these parents had just finished writing the last higher education check after 10 years of financing three kids through three BA degrees, one MA and one PhD.

But the 100 bucks went to our campaign instead, to "help someone so they, too, may have good health and a chance to be educated."

And you thought there were no saints on earth? Thanks to a family that has learned its lessons well.

From the student side of higher education comes Dara S. Okrand of Greenbelt. Her $20 gift was wrapped inside the following note:

"This past Dec. 20, I finally graduated from the University of Maryland. Between that and Christmas, I really racked up a few extra bucks due to cash gifts."

Dara says she contemplated using the money to buy clothes, dinners and "things I want and believe to be necessities." But then . . . .

"As usual, this morning I opened my comics, read my horriblescope and then your column. I think I found something more necessary than those silly things I listed above."

I think you did, too, my friend. Nothing against clothes and dinners, but how enjoyable can those be if we could have helped a sick kid, and didn't?

Max Rosenberg of Alexandria exemplified the Children's spirit with the best one-liner of this year's campaign.

"They tell me that having children is hereditary," Max wrote. "That is, if your mother didn't, you won't."

To ease the immediate winces and groans, Max enclosed $50, to "facilitate the well-being of those beautiful products of heredity at Children's Hospital."

It will do that, kind sir. Good gag. Good gift.

Mary Woodburn of Annandale is next up -- with a $10 gift, and an antifootball wish.

She is the mother of a 3 1/2-year-old boy named Brian who has been nicknamed "Middle Linebacker" by family friends. Brian is so well built that people are always telling Mary that she should call Joe Gibbs and offer Brian's services to the Redskins.

But Brian has never played football, and if Mary has anything to say about it, he never will. If he did, says his mother, "injuries may force him to know hospitals too well!"

As an ex-football player, Mary, I can tell you this about The Autumn Game:

It hurts.

A lot.

Every single time you play it.

And for decades after you've stopped playing it.

None of that may sway Brian about 12 years from now. But your gift has certainly swayed our file cabinet in the right direction, Mary. A direction called "Full."

Finally, a love story, courtesy of Gini Gravely of Fairfax.

"Here's $30, a dollar for each year Paul Carlin has lived," Gini writes.

"When he was a teen-ager, he was told he wouldn't live past 30 if he didn't have an operation to correct his scoliosis. It was done at Children's, and he is alive and fine, has a job, owns a home, etc.

"He's also well enough to become my husband next May. Many thanks, Children's!"

Give Paul a big postoperative kiss, Gini. And give yourself a pat on the back. Fifteen years from now, your contribution may turn another sick teen-ager into a high, wide, handsome and marriageable adult. Many thanks to Gini -- and to all who have the Children's spirit.

A few days ago, I recounted the tale of a rubber bucket. It contained 200 pounds of pennies, which were last seen being rolled and counted by some generous folks at Ruesch International, a downtown foreign exchange dealer.

The word is now in from Ruesch: the pennies added up to $290.35, and a check for that amount is on the way to Children's. Thanks again to Montana Double Car Wash (the donor) and Co-Op Courier Services (the transporter).

Thanks, too, to these recent group donors:

Rose Marie Lanpher's second graders at Westbriar Elementary School in Vienna ($13.50).

The staff at Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, a downtown law firm ($235).

Employes of the Van Ness Branch of Norrell Services ($50).

Employes of MS Electronics Inc. in Gaithersburg ($636.63 in honor of their bosses, Mick Simms, Mike McGraw, Tom Taylor, Gil Lilly and Bernie Smith).

American Legion Auxiliary, Colmar Manor Unit No. 131 ($25).

The Administrative Services Department of The World Bank ($1,344).

Office of Production Manager, Government Printing Office ($50).

The boss urged it, and the troops complied. Thanks to Col. William R. Barnes for steering $70 our way from the Christmas party chez deputy chief of staff, Information Management, United States Army Intelligence and Security Command.

Same thing happened at Standard Federal Savings and Loan Association in Gaithersburg, where, at the urging of the bosses, the troops contributed $80 that they would have spent on gifts for managers Tom Byrne and Pat Quinn.

Wednesday Morning Ladies League, which bowls at Fair Lanes, Marlow Heights ($50).

The Corporate Office of Nuclear Fuel Services, Rockville ($565 -- $265 from the employes, $300 from the company).

Women's Auxiliary to the Metropolitan Washington Association of Plumbing- Heating-Cooling Contractors Inc. ($100).

The Consumer Affairs Office at the Small Business Administration ($25).

The DI5KS office of the Defense Investigative Service ($40).

The Office of Planning and Zoning of Anne Arundel County ($80).

The Office of the Inspector General and the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Program Planning, Review and Management, Department of Defense ($131).

The Sperry staff at Patuxent River Operations, Lexington Park, Md. ($210).

Members of the Joint Data Systems Support Center, Resource Monitoring Branch, Defense Communications Agency ($1,010).

Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 3509, Gaithersburg ($500).

American Legion Auxiliary, Unit No. 177, Fairfax ($50).

"The Guys" at Co-Op Courier Services ($25).

The Maryland Delta Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa ($30).

The Air Force Retired Officers Wives Bridge Club ($100).

The Kensington Bridge Club ($40.25).

And the faculty and staff at Princeton Elementary School in Camp Springs ($40).

A wonderful performance, people! Many thanks to all who contributed.

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. The campaign ends on Jan. 24.