and then this happened…

Written by Carolanne Roberts

As the admission-free, tons of fun Red Mountain Park celebrates its 5th anniversary, philanthropy team leader Leigh Laser Collins revs up for even more success.

EARLY YEARS: Raised in Albertville, Alabama (“I was voted ‘most spirited’–also forward thinking because my parents were progressive and cool.”); University of Alabama (“I thought I needed an MRS degree rather than my BA [in English].”); then to Birmingham.

WORK, WORK:  Marketing Management, Inc. followed by Club Corporation of America (membership director at the Relay House), Discovery Place (heading volunteers), Books-a-Million (marketing director), YMCA (financial development VP) and, in 2012, Red Mountain Park (development under visionary director Dave Dionne).

PROFIT OR NON-PROFIT? Definitely non-profit. “I’m inviting donors to join a journey that will turn them into impactful investors. And I’m only going to ask for what our community needs.”

BEST PARK MOMENT: “When Mike and Gillian Goodrich and family granted Red Mountain Park $1 million–I call it a tangible show of faith in what we could do here.”

FAVE STATS: 1,500 acres whose rich iron ore deposits attracted the miners to a fledgling Birmingham. 2,000 community volunteers last year; 7,000 hours of “sweat equity.” More than 600 donors. 42 completed Eagle Projects (22 more in the works). Fifteen miles of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails; 11,000 monthly visitors. Easy 15 minutes from downtown Birmingham.

HER PRIDE, YOUR FUN: Leigh’s beloved park boasts Remy’s Dog Park, Vulcan Materials Zip Trip, Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest, 30-foot climbable Kaul Adventure Tower (with 1,000-ft.megazip), Schaeffer Segway tours, and treehouse views from Haskell Hideaway, Riley’s Roost and Rushing Rendezvous.

 STRANGEST TASK: Coaxing well-meaning visitors away from “assisting” the birth of a goat in the herd brought to the park to eat kudzu and privet.

LEAP FOR LOVE: Marrying Kevin Collins 12 years ago and embracing her calling as stepmother to four children, then ages 7-17. “Kevin and I should write the book someday about what was wonderful and painful and so worth it in the end.”

FREE TIME: Spent playing flute plus singing with the Five O’Clock Band; learning to paint and sew when she’s not teaching Zumba or tending her new neighborhood Little Free Library.

TRADEMARK GREETING: Hootie Hoo! “I have no idea where I picked that up. My grandmother name is going to be Hootie.”

LAST WORD: “No one has ever built a non-profit park that has no debt, is being built and supported by a community, and isn’t charging admission. Yet too many people in Birmingham don’t know about us…yet.”