Yesterday I mentioned that I had inherited Bill's shoebox and cordless abacus. Those items are standard equipment in the battle against the "built-in deficit" at Children's Hospital.
Part and parcel of the transfer to me of Bill's labor of love are the traditions and rules that guided the hosptial fund campaign to ever larger totals. The first of those rules was his promise not to mention the fund drive from early February until the start of the next year's drive on Dec. 1.
I will also follow that rule, but District Liners are of many different temperments. Some (like me, alas!) are procrastinators who don't get their checks into the mailbox before deadline time. Others can hardly wait for the collections to begin; they send in their checks months in advance. That's fine, because sooner or later all the money is counted, reported, and delivered to Children's Hospital.
Before this year's campaign got underway, I reread some of Bill's reports of previous drives. The letters that almost always accompany donations contain interesting stories. It's amazing how many good reasons people find for helping Children's Hospital. Your letters constantly reveal new reasons for sending the money, or new ways of raising it.
While my mailbox awaits this year's additions to the list, I have a backlog of contributions to tell you about. The General Accounting Office of the Comptroller General of the United States gets first mention this year with a check for $15. Lightwaves, a junior achievement group sponsored by C&P Telephone in Upper Marlboro, voted to send $18 in "house sales commissions" to the children, and promised to send more "if we are still successful."
Hyattsville's Gab and Game Club, always among the first to respond, sent in $35 this year. The American Turkish Assocation won the honor of contributing the first three-digit gift of this year's campaign, a check for $100. The money was sent as "a token of our appreciation for your (Bill's) work." I hope the members don't mind if I thank them for it.
"This year, as in prior years, several trial judges of the Court of Claims desired to contribute to the Children's Hospital National Medical Center," writes one of the trial judges. They remembered the children with $205.
Today's biggest contributors, the residents at Oakwood Garden Apartments in Falls Church, won first-day honors by adding $452 to the $350 they sent earlier. The activities director at Oakwood coordinates an ongoing drive there -- a fact that's worthy of mention because every project needs a sparkplug. The work doesn't get done by itself. A tip of the hat to Oakwood's tenants.
To summarize: Our first-day total from six organizations comes to exactly $1,175. An additional $461.78 was received from 17 individuals, who are never identified here by name. The arithmetic on this one is so simple that I don't need the trusty abacus to tell you that we're starting the 1979-80 campaign with $1,636.78.
Organizations always have good, humanitarian (and usually predictable) reasons for helping Children's Hospital. It's the individuals who put true creativity into their personal reasons for contributing.
One writer sent Bill a letter complaining about "the greedy oil companies" and sent along a check for the children just to make sure his letter would get a sympathetic reading. Another donation came from a woman whose car had a flat tire. She wanted to express her appreciation to a kind stranger who changed her tire and departed before she could thank him.
Another woman expressed gratitude for several medical successes in her immediate family, and especially for the health of her pre-school-age daughter. Her check was for $35.78, and she told us the reason for that odd amount.
At Thanksgiving, her family offered prayers for the starving people in Cambodia, and she explained the situation there to her child. "Imagine my surprise when she brought me her bank (with her 'life savings' of 78 cents earned from chores) as well as some toys and books she said were for the poor children. I was overcome."
Finally, one reader commended a Beltway policewoman and in the process broke one of Bill's rules. Greenbacks tumbled out of her letter, but she explained, "Ran out of checks -- it's been a very ungood month." I'll take cash if I must, but cash makes me nervous. Whenever possible, please use checks or money orders.
Whatever form your contribution will take, please get it into the mail pipeline as soon as you can. Bill warned me that the first days of each campaign are slow. The mail is so light that it seems obvious that the campaign will surely fall on its face. And then, come Christmas week, the mail comes flooding in.
But if you wait until Christmas week to begin writing to this new man on the beat, you're going to turn his hair prematurely gray. Now you wouldn't want to do that, would you?