The first week is complete, and our annual fundraising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital resembles a large bear. It's lumbering. It's slumbering. But it has lots of potential to spring into action.

Reason: We've got seven weeks to go. Many is the year that we have started slowly in the money-seeking wars and finished strongly.

So no sackcloth and ashes quite yet, please. Concern is fine. I share it. But, as always, the best way to cancel it out is with a generous donation.

Here's where we stand after Week One:

Our goal by Jan. 24: $1,000,000.

In hand as of Dec. 5: $70,648.00.

In hand at the same time last year: $53,823.46.

You might say that we're in good shape because we're ahead of last year's first-week totals by such a comfortable amount. Two buts: Our goal is $250,000 higher than last year's, and it's $86,000 higher than last year's final total. We have many miles to go before we sleep.

But I have faith in you readers, because you've always risen to the occasion.

This is my 22nd consecutive year of running a holiday-season fundraiser on behalf of Children's. I've learned that you readers like to keep me guessing. You always come through. But sometimes your surges don't arrive until the last day or the last hour.

Wouldn't it be great if we could get a huge, early leg up on our Children's goal in 2002-3? The key to that outcome rests with you, dear readers.

Children's has given outstanding service to the kids of this community since 1870. It does the job for every child, every day, regardless of a child's circumstances or family background.

But to keep that admirable policy alive, Children's must cover a tab of many millions. Your gifts help do that. They are appreciated tremendously.

So please let us hear from you. We've set an ambitious goal this year. With your help, we can reach it. Thanks very much in advance.

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to

Children's Hospital and mail it to

Bob Levey's Campaign for Children's,

P.O. Box 75528, Baltimore, Md. 21275-5528.

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.

TO CONTRIBUTE ONLINE:

Go to www.washingtonpost.com/ childrenshospital and follow instructions.