News Releases

Lander graduate helps give young lungs a breath of fresh air

October 21, 2009

Lander University exercise science graduate Leslie Treece Knox has helped redefine fresh air when it comes to outdoor play areas for children in Montgomery, Ala. The 1996 Lander graduate helped develop and coordinate the implementation of a program called Young Lungs at Play, which established Tobacco-free areas in parks, on play grounds, at ball fields and on walking trails throughout Montgomery County.

"I am very passionate about creating healthy spaces for children and adults and encouraging others to be healthy," said Knox, who is the physical activity coordinator for the Montgomery Area Community Wellness Coalition. "We were exposing our children who use play areas to secondhand smoke. By implementing Young Lungs at Play we are sending the message that it is not acceptable to expose children to an unhealthy environment."

Getting Young Lungs at Play approved was not easy - Knox had to sell the idea to several organizations and governing bodies in the Montgomery area. She then had to bring those agencies together.

When all was said and done, Knox had secured partnerships with the City of Montgomery Parks and Recreation Department, the Montgomery County Department of Parks, the YMCA of Montgomery, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the American Lung Association and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

On May 8, the day the Young Lungs at Play program was unveiled, Knox was also the spokesperson for the initiative. She was interviewed by the Montgomery NBC affiliate WSFA.

Knox said that Lander professors such as Charlie Sacoco helped give her tools and insight that proved valuable while working on Young Lungs at Play.

"They taught me the importance of working hard and building on my strengths," said Knox. "They taught me the importance of using my skills to give back to the community."

Sacoco, Lander assistant professor of physical education, said that as a student Knox was always interested in public service initiatives such as Young Lungs at Play.

"You would always see her around campus picking up litter, keeping the campus clean," said Sacoco. "Also, whether Leslie was working with children or in a corporate environment, wellness and fitness were always important to her. I love to see Lander alumni involved in health initiatives, such as Young Lungs at Play."

While at Lander, Knox was active in the Greenwood community through her work with the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes. She also worked for the Greenwood YMCA and the recreation department at Savannah Lakes in McCormick.

She now lives in Montgomery with her husband, Jeff, who is vice president of the Montgomery YMCA, and her daughter, Taylor.