For the past three decades, Bill Gold and The Washington Post have used this space to raise funds for Children's Hospital. Over the years, the drive has also become an annual tradition for thousands of District Liners. They have been the campaign's mainstay.

Upon inheriting Bill's labor of love, two particular fears plagued me. How succesful would the drive be without Bill's leadership? Would his readers be content with "The District Line," and forget about the children?

Those fears were unfounded, it pleases me to say. Not only did the stalwart remain loyal, but droves of newcomers came onboard. If the commentss in my mail can be trusted, most readers were quite pleased with the new arrangement.

And I got some letters with checks from people who had never before sent them to Bill. Some readers wouldn't contribute in the past because they resented the loss of "The District Line" during the campaign. I must have heard from a hundred readers thanking me for allowing Bill to devote his full attention to his column..

The most important reason to support Children's Hospital is spelled out in its charter, granted in 1870. The doctors there are obligated to provide the finest in medical and surgical care to any and all children, regardless of the parent's ability to pay for treatment. Of course, they get many takers.

Last year the hospital provided over $4 million in free health care services for needy children. The total amount collected by several well-known area fund-raisers has never came close to overcoming that "built-in deficit."

Bill managed to collect just over $223,000 last year. That's about 13 percent of the nearly $1.7 million gathered all over town. And every year he posted an annual increase in the amount channeled to the hospital.

That's a tradition I'd like to continue. There will have to be a strong resurge in the pipeline to put us over Bill's last mark. Time is rapidly running out. That's a good reason to add your support right now.

Here's some other reasons that moved District Liners to get out their checkbooks and give to the hospital with a heart.

With a check for "The enclosed check was originally for a subscription to a new science magazine. Since I do wish to become a research scientist, I found it much more appropriate to help a needy, sick child benefit from modern medicine research and care, as Children's Hospital so competently practices."

With a check for "Last Saturday I found a $10 bill on the sidewalk.

This was the largest amount of money I've ever found in my 69 years of looking, so I'm adding a little in recognition of my good luck."

With a check for $15.45: "This year the amount I'm sending is equal to my monthly retirement check from the state of Wisconsin. You may be surprised at the amount, but unless I am forgetful, the hospital will receive a similar check every month."

With a check for "This is in honor of a certain TV weatherman and a pillar of Washington who will soon be leaving for the Today Show in New York City. If you could get all of his fans to to contribute in his honor, you would go right over the top."

With a check for $31.19: "I promised myself before the Super Bowl that I would send you the score, so here it is. I hope those late checks make it."

With a check for "Now that I'm going to be 70 in a couple of months, I need a youth injection via Children's Hospital."

Those were just a few of the 41 checks totaling $1,033.89 received from anonymous individuals. Contributions also arrived from four organizations.

Staff members of the Executive Secretariat in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation gathered $30.

"The woman of a Reston, Va. Thursday Evening Duplicate Bridge Group would like to contribute our winnings pot for December and January to the Children's Hospital collection. Enclosed find a check for $42."

Employees of Antiques/Uniques launched an offense against the builtin deficit and managed to raise $50 for the medical treatment of needy children.

Taking tops honors in a field of four today were employees of the Communications and Data Services Division of Agriculture's Science and Education Administration. They raised $175 for Children's Hospital in leiu of exchanging individual Christmas cards. This was their ninth consecutive year of participation in the fund-raiser.

Our four groups contributed a total of $297. Our combined total today was $1,330.89. Not bad for one night's work. Adding that $1,330.89 with last night's total of $168,328.69 gives us a new to-the-minute total of $169,659.58. n

And here's that address, again. I'm trying to reduce any possibilities of neglect, because suddenly breaking the old record of $220,000 looks tougher. Send your help to: Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.