The truth is, our team is made of rare individuals who have chosen to make a difference by helping others. Love that.

Our activity based trainers (ABTs) are certified through the NeuroRecovery Network's NEUROeL education program and have received extensive training through Dr. Susan Harkema, the world’s leading expert in Neurological Rehab. You are in great hands!



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Karen Thor worked in banking for over 20 years, holding positions as Director of Treasury Management, Small Business, Group Banking and Credit Cards.  She completed her career in banking as CIO and Executive Vice President at National Commerce Financial, a $26B financial institution.  She also ran a successful consulting company, Revenue Enhancement Associates, teaching community banks how to establish high performing treasury management and group banking divisions.  Karen then joined Deluxe Corporation’s Treasury Management Solutions division as a national sales manager, leading a nationwide team selling complex payments software.  In 2015, Karen’s son was hit by a car and suffered a C2 break, paralyzing him from the neck down.  She and her family immediately moved to Atlanta so that Michael could rehab at the Shepherd Center, one of the top SCI rehab centers in the country.  It was there she saw the immense benefits of activity-based therapy.  After 2 ½ years, it was time to come home to the Raleigh area, but we found that the opportunity to continue aggressive activity-based therapy was very limited.  We decided to open NextStep Raleigh to allow our son to continue his recovery while giving this same opportunity to others.


DIRECTOR of training

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As Director of NextStep, Arlene is responsible for administering, overseeing, and modifying NextStep's fitness, health, and wellness programs. She also plays an integral role in the Center’s overall Fundraising Campaign.

Arlene was born in Zimbabwe and came to USA on a tennis scholarship, playing for Cooke County Community College in Texas for 1 year, and then transferred and completed her collegiate career at NC State University. She then went on her earn her Master’s Degree in Exercise and Sports Science form UNC Chapel Hill.

Arlene has had successful careers in the fitness, health, and wellness arenas as a sports coach, hospital-based exercise physiologist, wellness coordinator, university lecturer, physical therapy aide, and has managed a private gym and a health food store. She also owns a Fitness Coaching business where education, guidance, and inspiration are the cornerstones of her fitness philosophy.

Arlene is in the process of writing her first fitness related book.

She is the proud mother of a daughter who is a rising sophomore on athletic (volleyball) and academic scholarship at college in South Carolina.

Fun Fact: Arlene wants to get back to owning and playing a saxophone.