You may recall that on the final day of this year's fund appeal for Children's Hospital, I reported we had $164,980.65 in the shoebox. We were $6,827.05 short of last year's total.

I "knew" we couldn't close the gap because the big group gifts were already in and by the closing days of a campaign, checks from individuals average perhaps a dozen a day. At the height of the mail flow (just before and just after Christmas), 70 to 80 checks a day arrive from individuals and their average value is more than $25. By the time the 70 or 80 have dwindled to 12, the average check is for $10. Quite a difference.

My hope had been that my last minute plea for help would raise the response from 12 to 40, with a total value of around $500. Instead, on Tuesday alone 102 checks arrived with Jan. 31 postmarks, and before the week was out the number had grown to 125. Their average value: a plump $32.21. Heavenly days!

There are 15 gifts from groups in this final report. The Sixth Grade at Chapel Forge Elementary School in Bowie chipped in $10. "A bunch of us kids from McLean" earned $13 by singing Christmas carols in their neighborhood. Silver Spring Memorial Post 2562, VFW Ladies Auxiliary, sent in a check for $25. "The back room and administrative girls" at Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital also raised $25 by sending each other no intramural Christmas cards. And a third $25 arrived with the notation that it was to be credited to the NCO Wives Club of Andrews AFB.

No in-house card exchange among faculty and staff in the Industrial Education Department at the University of Maryland diverted $47.50 to the children. The Student Council at Carmody Hills Elementary School in Seat Pleasant sent me $50 raised by students. No charge services provided by Bryan Opticians brought in $60 worth of thank you checks from grateful customers. A pickle jar set out in the Lincoln Lounge of the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home accumulated $84.

A fashion show at the Woodward & Lothrop store in Landover raised $43.80, to which the Woodies store in Montgomery Mall immediately added $100 at the request of one of its Youth Board representatives. The young woman, a senior at Magruder High School, won the $100 in a contest run by Seventeen Magazine and knew exactly what she wanted to do with it.

The Diary Division of the Agricultural Marketing Service declined to exchange $170 worht of intramural holiday cards. The kitty raised by the men and women at Information Systems Consultants in McLean was a real surprise - $630.

I was admiring that check when a retired policeman phoned. "Hey, you old goat," he said, "some of your VEW friends were talking about the Children's Hospital drive being short, so we've just sent you a little check." The next day I received a check for $1,000 from McKimmie-Catterton Post 2979, VFW - the policemen's and firemen's post.

In the same mail there was a check for $1,500 from the D.C. Congress of Parents and Teachers, accompanied by a note that said, "As always, our youngsters enjoyed caroling in their schools and neighborhoods."

On Jan. 31, a special messenger had brought over an envelope from the Federal Trade Commission. In it was a letter that informed me that the FTC employee who had introduced the no-cards plan to that agency many years ago had died recently, and this year's collection from the FTC was therefore being given in his memory. The FTC gift this year: a record $2,445.25.

So the 15 contributions from groups came to $6,228.55, which was almost but not quite enough to close the gap between this year and last. We wouldn't have made it without the 125 gifts from individuals that added $4,026.50 to our tally and brought the day's receipts to $10,255.05. The shoebox moved from $164,980.65 to a final grand total of $175,235.70 and we finished with $3,428 more than ever before. You did it! And I love you for it. Thank you.