Kids & Horses was founded in 1999 by local businessman Sam Waldman to enhance the physical and mental well-being of children and adults who suffer from autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Sam was an early-adopter of utilizing horses as a means for helping individuals with disabilities. He turned his own Double W Ranch in Minden into a center dedicated to helping people with disabilities and quickly attracted the enthusiastic support of friends, family and the community. When Mr. Waldman passed away, a devoted board of directors, staff, volunteers and the families resolved to carry on.
Sam Waldman was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and was a graduate of the NYU School of Finance. He started out in a small accounting firm. He then joined Airco Industrial Gases, where he was employed for 30 years, until he retired in 1991. BOC bought Airco in 1979 and Sam went on to be its comptroller. He spent 10 years in Japan and the Pacific Rim before settling in Incline Village. Waldman was heavily involved in the business life of the area. He was the owner of Bowl Incline, Kings Beach Car Wash and Incline Car Wash and Storage, and a member of numerous community organizations, including the local Citizen Advisory Board and Chamber of Commerce, where he was a past president. Waldman and his wife Lorri, who were married for 41 years, came to Incline Village in 1986, and bought Bowl Incline two years later. He served as an Improvement District trustee for one term in 1995-1998. IVGID Risk Manager Mike Pennacchio said that among his outstanding achievements while a trustee was to take the lead in the District’s strategic plan, the management audit and the reorganization of the District. “He was the main fiscal person on the board,” said Pennacchio. “He had lots of business and financial sense.”
Despite his busy work life, he nevertheless found time for charitable deeds. “Sam was a very rare person,” said long-time friend Doug Brimm, owner of Austin’s Restaurant. “I considered Sam a leader in this town, a man of substance. He not only created lots of jobs and supported the business community, but he cared about people, and devoted a lot of his personal time to helping them. “In my opinion,” he said, “his most recent important achievement was his Kids and Horses program in Minden, at his ranch. I thought it was one of the most wonderful organizations I’ve ever heard of. When we opened a new restaurant in Reno, we had a fundraiser and were able to donate $17,000 to Sam’s program.” Waldman, an avid horseman, patterned Kids and Horses after the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association children’s program. He felt that riding horses helped build the self-confidence of handicapped children and let them experience the freedom of horse riding. He felt strongly enough about it that he started it with his own funds. “What’s more enjoyable than seeing kids and a horse?” he said of the program. “… when you look in the faces of those children who are on top of the horses, they are smiling.” For this work, Waldman was named as 2000’s Humanitarian of the Year by the 30th Annual Community Awards organization in Carson City. Sam Waldman died at age 65 at his home in Incline Village on October 30, 2000, after having been diagnosed the previous August with cancer. – North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, November 2000 photo by Abe Harbatkin