It's exactly as I feared.

One year ago, I sat at this computer terminal and gushed. The grand total in our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital had surged past the quarter-million mark and past the previous record for a full campaign, all in the same week.

This year, we have again surpassed $250,000 with a week to go -- no small feat. But for the first time in this year's campaign, we have slipped behind where we were in the comparable week a year ago. The curtain falls in only seven days. My brow is getting furrowed.

Here's where we stand:

Grand total to date: $256,619.67.

Total given this week: 37,845.73.

Individual donors to date: 3,908.

Group donors to date: 567.

A year ago, that top line read $276,475.27. That means we are suddenly almost 10 percent behind where we were 52 weeks ago. That isn't good news for sick children -- many of whom depend on your donations to help pay medical bills that their families can't come close to affording.

A reminder: every cent you give to our campaign goes to help sick kids. Your dollars give life and hope to kids from every walk of life.

That's the sort of cause I can get behind. It's the cause I ask you to get behind today. If we are going to surpass last year's record total, we need $64,000 in the next week. I hope I can count on every one of you readers to donate a piece of that.

To contribute to the campaign:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.