A Children's Hospital potpourri . . .

Last week, I received Vicki Aardema's $25 contribution to our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital. Vicki asked that her gift honor three teachers at Hollin Meadows Elementary School in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, which her children, Paxton and Kestra, attend.

Then Vicki wrote:

"I love to read the stories about Children's Hospital in your column, even though they make me cry at work."

Why, imagine such a thing. Crying at work? It could never happen to a Certain Columnist, of course. He is tougher than nails, harder than granite, tear-resistant like the best of shampoos.

Believe that and I'll tell you another.

Certain Columnist has often opened up the waterworks while reading about (and writing about) the sick patients at Children's. But in a crowded world like a newsroom, one might be seen (and mocked) if one cried. So he has been known to blame allergies, nuclear testing or a sudden speck of dust in the eye.

I'm sure Vicki would agree that it's a "parent thing." When you read about sick children--some of them very sick--it isn't hard to imagine your own child being in that boat. When I reach for a hankie to sop up the salt water, it's because I'm full of sympathy for the child who is sick--and full of gratitude that my children aren't sick.

Thanks, Vicki, for your generosity and honesty. Your gift will help sick children get better. I hope it will also keep the evil eye away from the Aardema children.

Thanks, too, for honoring your kids' teachers. They (and many more underappreciated ones) deserve it in a big way.

Kevin Wagman tried to do the honest thing. When that failed, he did the charitable thing.

Kevin, a 9-year-old who lives in Bethesda, writes that he found a $20 bill at a fast-food restaurant "when I was there with my swim team. When I told my Mom about it later, she and I went back and asked the lady at the register if anyone had lost some money. She said no."

So Kevin decided to give it to our "free care fund"--the money that helps pay medical bills of Children's Hospital patients whose families cannot.

Who says the young are not also the wise?

Right after Paul Douglass wrote his Children's Hospital check, he wrote me a letter. "It is now official!" the letter begins. What's official?

"My Christmas season," Paul says.

What he means is that writing a check to Children's is a December tradition of long standing.

Paul says he got the Children's habit when co-workers passed the hat at the David Taylor Model Basin in Bethesda, as it was once known (it's now the David Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center). Paul still has the habit in private life--to the tune of $100 this year. Thanks very much.

Her blessings have doubled. So has her gift.

Paula Friedman, of Rockville, has been a regular contributor to this drive for many years. But now she has "a very special son-in-law and a prospective dear daughter-in-law," she writes.

So Paula has upped the ante this year to $109--the sum of the ages of her two children and their objects of matrimony.

You've made a nice habit nicer, Paula. Many thanks, and congratulations to Layla, Keith, Sharif and Amy.

Priscilla and Ed Mott of Springfield don't say how old they are. But whatever the answer, they have had their fill of gifts.

So they have declared a moratorium on presents for birthdays, Mother's Days, Father's Days, anniversaries and Christmases. Word has gone forth to the entire family: All money that would have been spent on gifts for these occasions will now be given to Levey's Children's Hospital campaign instead.

The first Mott check arrived the other day--for a cool $600. They promise additional installments as occasions arrive--and aren't celebrated with gifts.

Why Children's?

"During World War II, my younger brother was deathly ill and Children's Hospital was able to get some very scarce penicillin and saved his life," Priscilla writes.

See what I mean when I say that Children's Hospital has been making friends--and keeping them--since it opened its doors in 1870?

Our goal by Jan. 21: $650,000.

In hand as of Dec. 19: $171,042.38.

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.

BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:

Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.