Shirl Mendonca: Ample opportunities to get involved at Lake Wildwood |

Shirl Mendonca: Ample opportunities to get involved at Lake Wildwood

There is a lot to love about Lake Wildwood. Diverse demographics gives everyone a chance to create a life that fits their own talents and interests … and, along the way, make LWW an even better place to live.

Sandi Walti has done just that. She moved here in 1989 with husband Al and 10-year old son Greg. At the time, LWW was a lot less populated and was made up of smaller vacations homes. After an extensive search to live right on a lake, LWW was the perfect place to build their new life.

After a career of teaching kindergarten and first grade in the Bay Area, Sandi was itching to get back to her creative side having also majored in creative arts. Soon after arriving, Sandi and Al were enjoying an evening boat ride with Marilyn Carrel and a few friends. Surrounded by beautiful views, Sandi mentioned what a great fundraiser it would be if several boats took visitors from dock to dock enjoying the lake along with food and wine at each garden stop. Marilyn and Al just happened to be on the board of Roots and Wings, the fundraising arm of Pleasant Valley School. If Sandi and Al could manage the logistics (volunteers, boats, food, wine, publicity, etc.), Marilyn was sure that she could get it approved by the board.

Now, over 20 years later, the Roots and Wings Wine Cruise is a popular annual event. No longer involved in the planning, Sandi and Al still offer their boat, their garden, and their dock from time to time.

Living on the lake, it was a natural for the Walti’s to join the Lake Wildwood Yacht Club which now has over 200 members and is open to all residents. This is where Sandi shines as she orchestrates themed events for the club. She has cajoled, arm-twisted, and used her ever-present smile to persuade many a volunteer to help her put on 10 different “over the top” events including Mission Impossible, Survivor, and Around the World in 4 Hours Most events involve 10 pontoon boats, 10 guests per boat, and 10 docks with a mission, challenge, or test of wills for the guests at each dock. Everyone participates so it takes a lot of organizing, coordinating, routing directions, and costumes.

When Sandi and her team did the Around the World in 4 Hours, it was like visiting a mini Epcot Center. Each dock host picked a country and then prepared special foods, costumes, and the entertainment or contest. For example, at the Chinese-themed dock, the owner brought in the Taiko Drummers. At the German themed dock, hosts donned lederhosen costumes and taught a German dance, and at the Hawaiian dock, hosts were dressed in coconut shells and hula skirts to hand out leis and teach the hula.

In 1997, when son Greg went off to college, Sandi joined LWW Little Theatre, now called LWW Theatre. She is a regular dancer and chorus member but is also infamous for her extravagant theatre parties with lots of colorful costumes. The most well-known holiday party was four years ago when she put on “An Evening of the Music of Michael Buble and Natalie Cole”. Sandi sought out some of the county’s best voices including Kris Stepanian, Bob and Janet Rossman, Dawn Simmons, Kim Wellman, and Kathy Goldie to perform along with LWW’s own Merilee Imamoto, Elmer Fairbanks, Ken Rutledge, Kristine Alcamo, Cap and Cheryl Wallington, Betsy Hatten, Sharon Meyer and the Zumba gals. The 2 ½ hour extravaganza was so well received that it was brought back in January in a show for the community.

In her down time, Sandi has also led a bible study group for 12 years and plays bridge. Husband Al is just as active but in different areas.

While events and theatre may not be your thing, each person living in LWW has the latitude to create the life they want to live and do it in beautiful surroundings with wonderful neighbors … a true community with numerous indoor and outdoor activities, clubs, exercise classes, and service projects. And kids are part of the mix; Sandi’s son Greg learned to water ski, play tennis, golf, and fish while living here.

With so many options, you just might need a time management system for your free time.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User