Jeff Jardine

Waterford boy breaks the (piggy) bank to help classmate's family

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of compassion for those in need and of giving because it just feels good.

In some cases, it takes the worst in some people to bring out the best in others. In other cases, it's a matter of wanting to help those who are less fortunate.

Here are a few things valley people are doing -- on their own -- in the spirit of the season:

RIGHTING A WRONG -- David Allan Cutchall III is a 5-year-old kindergartner in Waterford.

Last week, burglars struck the home of one of his schoolmates. The girl's parents had bought bicycles and other gifts for the children, only to have the Grinches of the world steal their Christmas.

A little boy with a big heart, David decided to do something about it. He's been judiciously saving coins and currency for much of his young life. He approached his mother, Emily Cutchall, with an idea.

"Mom," he asked, "can I take half of the money from my piggy bank and give it to the kids who lost their Christmas presents?"

So he raided the bank, which contained about $100, grandma Michele Cutchall said.

"His mom has tried to teach him that Christmas is about giving," Michele Cutchall said. "She was really touched. Emily cried and said, 'If he can give $50, so can we.' "

Mom matched his $50. So did Grandma, and other relatives contributed, too. Soon they had roughly $170 and presented it to the victimized family.

"The mom and dad were really touched," Michele Cutchall said. "They started crying. I thought what David did is great. What you give, you get back tenfold."

FAMILY AFFAIR -- Twenty-three years ago, a conversation between local physician Wallace Carroll and Velma Hicks of Riverbank spawned what has become a tradition. Hicks and her family own the Del Rio Guest Home, which houses developmentally disabled clients ages 18 to 59.

"I was talking to Velma about Christmas, and she said that some of them don't get to go home," said Carroll, an allergist with Gould Medical in Modesto. "I told her my family would love to come over and greet them."

Every year since, Carroll, wife Lydia and their children -- now all grown -- have visited the home on Christmas Eve.

"We read 'The Christmas Story,' " he said. "We sing carols. The kids put on skits. It's a lot of fun."

The family also brings gift bags containing anything from hats and gloves to lotions, toothpaste, candies and fruits.

This year, 36-year-old son Ryan will be home from Chicago, where he is a critical care specialist for children at Northwestern University's hospital.

Daughter Cristina, 32, will be home from Fresno, where she is married and has three children.

Only daughter Kelly, 30, a nurse practitioner in Denver, won't be here, Carroll said.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' ... -- As Seth Aiken-James came to a greater understanding about the legend of Ol' Saint Nicholas, he decided to be more like him. So Wednesday morning, the 27-year-old developmentally disabled Modesto man will be Santa Claus, dispensing gifts to others among the 63 clients who each day visit the Modesto Community Action Programs & Services facility on Rumble Road.

As Christmas approaches each year, staff members take the clients out on shopping sprees for secret Santa gifts. He'll be handing those gifts out, and no one will enjoy it more, said his mother, Michele Aiken of Modesto.

"It's Christmas," said Seth, a 2001 Johansen High School graduate. "I'll get to pass out candy canes and see lots of kids."

"Once the magic (of Santa) wore off, he became more of a character to Seth," said Michele Aiken, who rented him a Santa suit for the occasion. "He's always wanted to play him. The day program is a great place to let him do this. It's part of his Christmas present.

Because Seth's disabilities include speech, mom will be there as Santa's helper. ...

TO TOWN -- Meanwhile, the Calhoun family is in the spirit, loading Santa with more than 400 gifts for children in the Modesto area. Wednesday, the jolly old elf -- with the help of 7-year-old elves Tristian Calhoun and Aaliyah Fountain -- will distribute gifts at Modesto Mobile Home Park and several other kid-happy locations. Organizer Renee Calhoun has long been collecting used clothes and toys for the needy. She's recruited a couple of auto wreckers, Wilson's and Oakdale, to contribute to the cause.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or