Daniel M. Snyder peered into an incubator and prayed for the day that his little girl, who weighed just two pounds at birth, would be free of the wires and breathing tubes taped to her tiny frame.

In the summer of 1995, Snyder was a 30-year-old college dropout who had made millions in advertising and direct marketing to college students. Suddenly, he and his wife shared the challenge of caring for a daughter born three months early, a problem that neither his hard-driving work ethic nor his checkbook could fix.

"We went through a complete crisis mode: 'Would the baby be able to see? Would the baby have lung disease? Would there be bleeding in the brain?' " Snyder said, adding that during that time, he and his wife had many worries and questions. From time to time, the Snyder family turned to the staff at Children's Hospital in Washington.

Snyder's second child also arrived early, and even though both daughters -- now 5 and 3 -- came home healthy, their births sparked a desire by Snyder to donate more than $3 million to Children's Hospital for completion of a new $10 million emergency department. Last week, it was renamed the Snyder Family Emergency Medicine and Trauma Center.

Snyder, who owns the Washington Redskins, said the births gave him a "clear vision" to use part of his money to support causes for children. He also donated funds to build a new communications center for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria and started a nonprofit group, the Washington Redskins Leadership Council, to work with youths.

"We started with Children's Hospital, we expanded our giving to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and we are getting involved in other areas," Snyder said.

Ernie Allen, president of the center for missing children, said Snyder is a member of the organization's board of directors and donated $400,000 to build the communications center.

Snyder made some of his early millions through advertising displays posted on college campuses. Allen said Snyder allowed pictures of missing children to be printed on some of his advertising posters, which have been displayed in Wal-Marts and malls across the country.

Children's Hospital President Ned Zechman also was grateful to Snyder for his contributions.

"Our old emergency room was built 27 years ago for about 20,000 patients, and we are averaging 40- to 50,000 patients a year," Zechman said. "It just wasn't a nice facility. It was way overused. The gifts enabled us in these tight managed-care times to build the facility."

The other major donors to the emergency department were the Saudi Arabian government and Albert Misler, the late Washington lawyer, and his wife, Helen. Members of the Saudi royal family have used the hospital, and Helen Misler said at the emergency center's dedication that it is dear to her family.

To head his Washington Redskins Leadership Council, Snyder recruited Alex Hahn, a former executive of Arnold Communications in Boston.

Hahn said one of the council's programs offers grants of as much as $10,000 to youths who submit proposals and implement community-service projects. The program is for ages 5 to 18. For more information, call 703-478-8900, Ext. 293, or visit www.redskins.com.

In addition, the council has a literacy program called Redskins Read, coordinated through libraries in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Players read to youths and encourage them to read. Snyder has purchased a bookmobile that will travel through several communities this summer.

In a program called 4th and Life, Redskin players met in December at FedEx Field with 500 seniors from high schools across the area. The players talked about what it takes to succeed on and off the field.

Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said efforts that the team is making in the community are long overdue. "We are running from behind," Green said. "I wish this organization would have done this 18 years ago. Trying to have an impact in the community on this magnitude is a step up."

Snyder talked passionately about wanting to bring more to the area than a Super Bowl championship.

"We are working very hard to make the community understand that we want to be involved," Snyder said. "We want the community to feel good not only for our winning football, but for our efforts that we make on a community basis."

Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, right, talks with defensive back Darrell Green at the Children's Hospital facility that Snyder helped to make possible.