On this date last year, the Children's Hospital shoebox held $147,331.13. As we begin today's tally, we have only $131,503.41 on hand. We're $15,827.72 behind last year's pace.

But be of good cheer. The United States Navy has just steamed into view. Last year the Navy let loose a $13,171.86 salvo. If its contribution is equally strong this year, we'll almost be back on track. Let's see how close we can come.

We begin with $20 from the ladies of Unit 181, Ladies Auxilliary of the Fleet Reserve Association. At the Naval Memorial Museum in the Washington Navy Yard, the staff rounded up $25. The Engineering Management Department of the Naval Weapons Engineering Support Activity chipped in $30.

The Software Engineering Service ("our nickname is SES-Pool 1") in Crystal City pulled together $45.50.

The Clinical Projects Group of the Naval Medical Data Services Center decided not to exchange $50 worth of cards. The nNaval Enlisted Reserve Association also sent in $50, plus a promise that "next year we'll riase more." The Naval Ordnance Station at Indian Head rounded up $131.

A couple of years ago, a retired Navy officer who could no longer five at the office asked whether his check could be added to the Navy's total. I said sure, and assigned him to the U.S.S. Miscellaneous. This has turned out to be a pretty good category. This year we have $295 in gifts from Miscellaneous personnel, including $10 from a delightful young woman who is "a female midshipman in the NROTC at the University of Virginia."

What makes her so delightful is that she didn't call herself a midshipperson.

Personnel of Building 18, Ship Dynamics Division, and the Ship Performance Department of the David W. Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center raised $76.24 for the children, and "some employees of the David W. Taylor Naval Ship R&D Center who chose not to exchange greeting cards with friends on station" added $234.04 to bring the model basin total to $310.28.

The Navy's Strategic Systems Project Office rounded up $444.50 for the children, and the Naval Regional Finance Center upped the ante to $471. The Military Sealift Command, where there has long been active concern for the medical plight of children from poor families, chipped in a hefty $487.70.

On one of my many "pickup" trips to Crystal City this year, I was handed $604.87 by my friends of long standing (you don't catch me making the mistake of calling them "old" friends) at Naval Material Command Headquarters. Subsequently, additional checks arrived in batches of $70, $10 and $48 to bring Navmat's total to a juicy $732.87.

The Navy Supply Systems Command supplied $1,025 worth of medical help for indigent children. The Naval Electronic Systems Command topped that by a whisker with a total of $1,030.45. Are you beginning to get the feeling that these Navy people are a little bit unreal? Read on.

From the Naval Air Systems Command Recreation Association came three-quarters of a pound of checks that were supposed to add up to $1,620.88, but another ounce arrived later to run the total to $1,728.98. The Naval Research Lab, always among the big hitters for Children's Hospital, somehow put together a contribution of $2,377.41, and a later check for $18 raised that total to $2,395.41.

Big as those gifts were, they came to less than $10,000, so I saw little chance of getting this year's campaign up to last year's level. But that was before I made my last trip to Crystal City to see the folks at Navsea and Navsec. What a reception they gave me.

For the 19th straight year, the Naval Sea Systems Command posted a large "community" Christmas card that everybody signed instead of sending individual cards intramurally. The money that was saved came to an amazing $3,365.76 plus $23 that arrived later to bring Navsea's total to $3,388.76. By the time the skipper at the Naval Ship Engineering Center handed me an envelope, I was in a daze. His envelope contained $4,400 - and here's the most remarkable part: that $4,400 was only half of the money that Navsec people contributed to charities this year!

The Navy's total this year is therefore $17,061.45 - a record for the men and women in blue and their civilian colleagues - and this column gratefully doffs its hat to them. They have not only put us back on track but actually $1,233 ahead of last year's pace. The shoebox now holds $148,564.86.