Five weeks down and three to go in our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital, and the news remains good.

Our bottom line is about $22,000 better than it was after five weeks a year ago--and that gap is widening. Could we be heading for a record year? It's beginning to seem very, very possible.

Here are the Week Five figures:

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

In hand as of Dec. 30: $369,235.30.

In hand at the same time last year: $347,335.47.

That $22,000 "spread" between last year and this is the largest we've enjoyed so far in the 1999-2000 Children's campaign. But will the spread continue to spread?

That's never easy to predict. In some years, campaigns fizzle after Christmas. But in other years, they soar well into January. Who knows why? I certainly don't.

In any case, I never stop crossing my fingers, especially during campaigns when all the signs are good well past the halfway point. And so far, the signs are very good indeed.

If you had an unusually successful year in 1999, why not celebrate it by making a gift to our campaign? Many patients at Children's Hospital could not receive the medical care they need without your generosity.

But it's not just about buying bandages and tape. It's about strengthening this community.

Children's Hospital has been serving the Washington area since 1870. It's one of the oldest organizations in town--and one of the best.

Your charitable gift could not go to a better place. And your gift will always go directly to patient care. We never siphon off a cent for overhead or further fund-raising.

Will we soar in the next three weeks? It all depends on you. Please hop aboard our campaign train, if you haven't already. No gift is too small. All are appreciated. And all are deductible on state and federal income tax returns as long as you itemize deductions.

Thanks very much.

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.