From its simple, Utah-based beginnings five years ago, The Children's Miracle Network Telethon (Saturday at 7 p.m. until Sunday at 5 p.m., Ch. 5) has grown to a nationally syndicated extravaganza that last year took in $41 million --an all-time record for television fundraising.

Now headquartered comfortably in Southern California's Disneyland, the 1988 Telethon is headed by Bob Hope, Marie Osmond, John Schneider, Merlin Olsen, Rich Little, Mary Hart and Jim McMahon. Beaming out over more than 180 affiliated television stations, it will feature appearances by an impressive assortment of stars, including Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Olivia Newton-John, the Oak Ridge Boys, Patrick Swayze, Lionel Richie, Alabama, David Copperfield, Robert Goulet and, of course, enough Osmonds-- Donny, Jimmy, the Brothers and the Boys-- to make the entire membership of the American Dental Association salivate.But don't let the fancy new digs and the high class entertainment fool you. At its heart, The Children's Miracle Network Telethon is as single-minded as ever. While it strives to put on an even bigger and better show each year, only one thing really counts.

Helping sick children get well.

"I can't think of a better cause than that," said KSL programmer David R. Manookin, who will be producing local cutaways for this year's telethon from Primary Children's Medical Center. "As far as I'm concerned, this is the most satisfying thing we do all year. And the reason for that is the kids."

Kids like Jane Skanky, a Salt Lake City 10-year-old who is now ice skating and bike riding like other youngsters her age thanks to surgery to correct a problem in her right foot. And 6-year-old Chante Wouden of Bountiful, who has been battling tumors since she was 2-- and winning. And Angela Peterson of Orem, who, at age 7, finally has an effective heart -- and a future.

And those are just three of the Utah children who have been helped recently at Primary Children's, the child care facility that benefits directly from KSL's telethon efforts. (That's a key element to the success of the Children's Miracle Network Telethon: all of the money raised stays at home to benefit needy children locally. Last year Primary Children's received $250,000 from generous donors in the Ch. 5 viewing area.)

KSL's Shelley Thomas, Len Randolph and Doug Wright will man the microphones during local cutaways. You'll also be seeing a lot of Alexis Fernandez, Dave Hebertson, Don Olsen, Carole Mikita, Shelley Osterloh, Ed Yeates, Bruce Lindsay and Dick Nourse. And if you listen carefully you'll probably hear the voice of a former KSL employee-- Mark Van Wagoner --handling some of the national announcing chores.

"I've associated with my share of causes over the years," Hope said, perhaps echoing the feelings of most of the involved celebrities, "but helping the Children's Miracle Network is still one of the best things I do."

It's one of the best things we all do. Give early. Give often.

-Speaking of the telethon, we probably should mention here than there's a good chance the 22-hour mega-show will be interrupted Sunday morning. If the NBA Playoff series between Boston and Detroit goes to a seventh game, it will air on Ch. 5 at 11 a.m. Of course, we won't know about that for sure until after tonight's Game Six. But if there is a Game Seven you'll be able to see it live on KSL.

-And speaking of KSL, (the King of the Segues strikes again!), last week's rumor is this week's established fact. Eyewitness news anchor and reporter Don Olsen has accepted an offer from Jon Huntsman to go to work for his chemical company. Olsen's last day at KSL will be June 26, which means Ch. 5 faces the prospect of going in to the heart of the political season without its leading political expert. And it's hard to imagine watching KSL's election night returns without hearing Olsen's informative --and often witty--commentary.

But life goes on. And from what I hear, Olsen's life will be much more ...shall we say, comfortable with his new, private industry-sized paycheck.