Every Christmas season seems to bring charitable tidings to Children's Hospital from some of man's best friends. Last year Arturo, a parrot, sent a donation to the free care fund. This year a champion poodle has responded. She wrote:

"My name is Nicole. I am a poodle and I am 20 months old. This past year I have earned two obedience degrees but only one trophy because I get too enthusiastic in the ring. In the tradition of our family poodles, I want to contribute my winnings to the children. The woman I own says the trophy is worth $10, so that is what I enclose. I hope to do better for the children next year."

Well, once again let me say I'm happy to accept contributions from any living organism that can sign a check. Poodles, parrots, or people, if the color of your cash is green, you can be sure it's welcome here. And, of course, the young patients at Children's Hospital are equally grateful.

In a brief holiday statement included in direct mail solicitations, hospital administrators explain the mission of Children's Hospital. It bears repeating here.

"Children's Hospital National Medical Center is an institution whose expertise and service are available to all children even if the parents are unable to pay their medical bills. The hospital is not a government-sponsored institution, and it does not receive any special government funds. The only way the hospital can make up for the free care to those unable to pay is through your generosity. Children's has always been a place where compassion and concern have been combined with modern technology and high medical standards to serve children in need."

That's an exalted goal, but every year the hospital spends far more on free care than it recovers in charitable contributions. The combined generosity of the citizens of Our Town and others around the nation always trims a fair percentage from free care "losses," yet the hospital with the "built-in deficit" shows no signs of soon becoming the hospital with the "overcome deficit." Still, we try, and each year, thousands respond.

The mail pipeline, which travels directly from you to me to Children's, has been slowly gearing up for the Christmas crush. This morning my mail slot contained several contributions from area organizations and employers.

Leading the list was a check for $10 from Cadette Girl Scout Troop 2278 in Vienna. The scouts explained that "because our troop is just starting, we had no time to plan a service project. We then voted to send Children's Hospital our check, collected from our dues."

Troop 2278 has made a beautiful start, I'd say. Bravo, friends!

The next two letters came from bowling clubs. Usually I save letters from similar organizations and then write a "bowling" or "bridge" column, but not this morning. If you don't see your group, don't panic. It's coming soon. Are you listening, Navy?

Anyway, one letter came from old friends, the Thursday Ladies Triples Bowling League of Fairlanes Bowling in Marlow Heights. They sent $22. The other club, the Wednesday A.M. Ladies Bowling League, strikes at the Skor Mor Lanes in Arlington. They raised $30 at their last meeting.

Finishing up for the day were two checks totalling $300, both from Rockville's Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. For nine consecutive years, members of the corporate office there have contributed to the hospital in lieu of exchanging Christmas cards among themselves. They've shown the system works. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, a quick recount shows that 81 anonymous individuals chipped in $2,299 and four organizations added another $362, making our daily total $2,661. When we last looked, our cumulative total was $14,639.90, so our new year-to-date figure is $17,300.90. That's a nice even number and the shoebox loves it. Plenty of room for more, though.

Help Children's Hospital continue their great work, both in the community and around the world. Please send your tax-deductible check, payable to Children's Hospital, to: Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Do it now!

I open every envelope and read every letter myself, so don't be shy. Each gift, no matter the size, is very important, and appreciated. Free medical care for needy children could easily be the most profound gift given this season. Be a part of it.