Oh, how I love to dynamite cliches about the nation's capital. Got your blasting caps ready?

* Everyone in Washington works for the government. Only about one-fourth of all employed adults do. The largest slice works in service industries.

* Washington is a "sleepy southern town" (or, for those who remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Washington is a town of "southern efficiency and northern charm"). More than half of us were born north of the Mason-Dixon Line, or so far west of it that the line doesn't matter.

As for sleepiness, do 80 legitimate theaters and 2,400 bar/restaurants tell you that we roll up the carpets at 9 p.m.? As for charm, New York, Philadelphia and Boston lack it a lot more than we do. As for efficiency, I'll see you with 24/7 Pepco and raise you with 365 Washington Gas.

* Washingtonians don't care about local concerns, or their neighbors. They lack a "sense of place" about D.C. To refute that one, we hereby swear in a woman named Fanny Mills.

She sent me an e-mail message the other day, and she did something that very few 80-year-olds do. She made fun of herself.

"In the past," said Fanny, "I would write you at this time every year and tell you how much I love Children's Hospital. But you probably never read my letters because you probably couldn't. I have the worst, squiggliest old-lady handwriting imaginable!"

Fanny pointed out that it's very hard to be squiggly in an e-mail message. Still, she didn't want me to worry.

"The Queen of Squiggles will soon strike again," she said.

From her new home in La Mesa, Calif., Fanny said she'd soon send her customary $20 check for the benefit of our annual fundraising campaign on behalf of Children's. She has been contributing to my holiday-season campaign ever since I started running it in 1981.

Why would an elderly woman go to such trouble from so far away? Because Fanny well remembers what it was like when she was a 20-year-old first-time mother -- and her baby boy had a sudden 105-degree fever one night.

"Children's Hospital was on 13th Street then," Fanny wrote (her memory is still excellent). "I walked my son in there, not knowing what to expect. I've never seen such a caring bunch of people in my life."

That little bundle of overheated joy is now a professor of psychology at a branch of the University of California, Fanny reports. She went out to live with him and his family last spring "after I got a little too old to care for myself."

But Fanny still feels a strong attachment to this Potomac River village. "You don't forget people like the ones I met that night in 1942," she said.

Nor will we forget caring mothers, Fanny. Squiggles forgiven. Transcontinental thanks issued.

Dorie Murphy had been back from her trip to Europe for about a week when a little red light went off in the back of her head.

"Aren't you the guy who takes foreign money and gives it to kids?" she asked, when she called the other day.

I confessed. Whereupon Dorie pledged a) her everlasting thanks and b) the contents of the top drawer of her dresser.

The same happy outcome awaits both you and your dresser. We gladly accept money from any nation on Earth. We have it converted to U.S. dollars and add it to the bottom line of our annual campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital.

If you're sick of looking at an untidy pile of drachma, or an unsightly mound of francs, please aim your stash my way. Sick kids will benefit.

She began by saying that she hated to bother me. When we got done, I was delighted that she had.

Sandra Siegenthaler works for a "major private employer in the suburbs" (she didn't care to identify it). She asked if my annual campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital accepts matching gifts.

If only all questions were so easy and so pleasant to answer.

We certainly do accept matching gifts, I told Sandra. If you work for a major employer, it's likely that a matching-gift program is available to you, too. All you need to do is write a check, fill out and attach the appropriate form to it and follow the directions below.

The really cool news: More and more employers double-match the gifts of employees. So your $100 check can often become $300 in our pocket, just like that. Of such "multiples" are record fundraising years born.

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

In hand as of Dec. 23: $290,165.13.


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.


Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a

touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S,

or 5437, and follow instructions.


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