We are officially cooking.

For the last two weeks, Levey has been crying in his beer about the sluggish progress of our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital. He has blamed fate, sunspots, Y2K and anything else he can shake a stick at. He has pleaded for a drastic change in our fortunes.

It looks as if we have gotten it. Our 1999-2000 Children's campaign is now running ahead of the previous year's totals for the first time.

Here are the numbers after four weeks of our eight-week drive:

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

In hand as of Dec. 23: $261,524.14.

In hand at the same time last year: $249,474.80.

Just a week ago, we trailed last year's comparable-week total by $15,000. Now we lead it by $12,000. This, dear friends, is the sort of plot line I enjoy.

But we are only halfway home, so we have to avoid breaking out the brass bands prematurely. Good news can curdle just like that. It has happened before. That produces great sourness on the usually rosy countenance of R. Levey, Boy Typist. It also produces fewer bucks for the sick kids at Children's than they need.

So I ask that you help our cause with a gift--today, while you're thinking of it.

It's a 51-year Washington tradition, and the money goes to the best place I know: the "free care fund" at Children's. The money in that pot goes to pay the medical bills of Children's patients whose families cannot. No funds are ever spent for any other purpose.

This being Christmas, I have a hunch that most of you are feeling a special spirit. However, some kids are not, because they are sick. They might not get the care they need without your generosity.

Please come through for them, as you do each year. The need never goes away. Neither do the smiles on the faces of the children you help.

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.