"Don't look now, but I think the Christmas rush is over," lamented Bill Gold last year during his final Children's Hospital fund-raising drive. I'm lamenting, too, because yesterday the pipeline barely gurgled.
The fund campaign is under my direction for the first time this year. So far, with the help of numerous DistrictLiners, area organizations and informal groups, we've done pretty well.
On this date in 1978, Bill had collected a total of $128,418.68. The figure for Jan. 17, 1979, was $127,620.80. On Tuesday, we reported a to-date total of $150,238.51. But looks are deceptive.
Bill always managed to post an annual increase in his labor of love. To keep his 30-year tradition alive, we have to divert, send, gather, or collect in excess of $223,000 (Bill's figure for last year). Earlier I calculated that with an adjustment for our (optimistically speaking) 12 percent inflation rate, we would need about $250,000 just to keep our heads out of water.
Perhaps it's time to remind our readers, both old and new, why The Washington Post annually devotes this space to help Children's Hospital. Children's was incorporated more than a century ago. One of the founding principles still remains to provide "gratuitous medical and surgical treatment for indigent children, without distinction of race, sex or creed . . ."
So each year we solicit funds for the hospital with the "built-in deficit." No child is ever turned away from Children's because of money, or lack of it. nWhether or not the parents can afford necessary medical treatment, the child receives the same caliber of care that any other patient would get.
This is the built-in deficit that plagues the hospital. Last year more than $4 million was spent on "free care and collection losses." Of that, just over $1.7 million was collected by several Washington fund-raisers, including the hospital itself. The balance was covered by a complicated formula involving a trust fund and help from some revenue-producing operations at Children's Hospital.
So, to get to the issue at hand, holiday support seems to be dropping off drastically. In a time when so much is wrong in the world, right here there is a place where people come before money, and help is not based on the probability of payment. That's rare today, and deserves our faithful support.
Fortunately, a handful of contributions did make it through the pipeline. A total of $578.40 arrived from 15 anonymous individuals. My thanks go out to all of you. But only 15? That sounds like the pipeline of Dec. 10, before the holiday season really started moving. But you still have until Jan. 31 to help needy children receive medical aid.
Nine organizations and groups also participated today. The first group required a little investigative work. A check for $20 arrived with only this notation: "From Rockville No. 1 SFGSG of ARE. A phone call revealed the initials to stand for the Search for God Study Group of the Association of Research and Enlightenment.
Members of the "All-Fouled-Up M.O.C. Auxiliary No. 5" sent $25. M.O.C. is short for "Military Order of the Cootie" and I suspect the numberous errors in their message were purposeful "foul-ups." But it was no mistake to remember the children.
A check for $25 also arrived from the "Katydids" of Arlington. They raised their gift by selling Christmas cards and decorations.
Employees and friends of People's Drug Store No. 119 in Bowie sent the hospital a $77 check. A Christmas tree on the prescription counter with a simple message did the work.
Members of the Washington Bridge League were "proud to contribute $123 to Children's Hospital," as their scribe put it. I was proud of them.
Employees of the Wm. E. Miller Furniture Co. gathered $215 for the children by not exchanging Christmas cards in their office. Once again, the famous method works.
Another so-called "late" contribution of $229.82 was sent in by the guys and gals at the FDA's Bureau of Radiological Health. The late gift brought their total for this year's drive to $1,029.82. Well done, friends.
"Enclosed is the contribution from our employees," wrote a young woman employed by the Behnke Nursery Co. in Beltsville. They sent $610 which included the company's matching gift.
Taking top honors today were the generous folks working for the Records Management Division of the FBI. Once again they selected Children's Hospital to benefit from their sense of civic duty. You people are truly fantastic. Many thanks.
Our nine groups contributed a combined total of $3,828.82. Together with the $578.40 from 15 individuals we have a tally today of $4,407.22. The shoebox held $150,238.51 yesterday so it now contains $154,645.73. We're still shooting for $250,000. It isn't impossible if we chip in together.