Our Team

Our team is selectively constructed of skilled and motivated individuals, striving to make a difference in the lives of others. Our goal as certified Activity Based Therapy Trainers is to provide a safe environment to help you excel forward in your recovery. We guarantee our hardworking staff will make you feel welcomed and well taken care of!

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Paul Pickard

FOUNDER

It was two weeks before our oldest son Christopher’s graduation from Lambert High School and the night before prom…an exciting time of year for a Senior. On Friday evening, May 13, 2011 at 10:20pm we received a phone call and learned he had possibly been in an automobile accident. We arrived to the scene of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, and were relieved as we did not see his truck. Within seconds, through the flashing lights, we caught a glimpse of our son lying on a stretcher and found out that he was a passenger in an automobile that had crashed into the nearby brick sign. He had sustained a burst fracture to his C6 vertebrae and would need surgery right away to relieve pressure on his spinal cord.

All of a sudden, our world was turned upside down, and after spending a week in ICU at North Fulton Regional Hospital, we were on our way to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Our son was a quadriplegic and we would find out over the next three months, exactly what that meant. We were bombarded with the reality that there is much more to a spinal cord injury than being paralyzed and in a wheelchair. While at the Shepherd Center our son learned how to function in a wheelchair, and we were educated on how to live with a spinal cord injury. All the while, we were wondering, “Where do we go next?” as our ultimate goal was for him to walk again. After much prayer, hours of research and the discovery of a friend, we believe God led us to a center in California. We had visited several facilities while researching our options, and without a doubt, we knew this was where he needed to be. For the first time since his accident, we were filled with hope. It felt like the ball was finally in our court, and our son would have the opportunity to work toward gaining optimum recovery and the arduous goal of [possibly walking again someday. 

Through God’s provision, the generous support of family, friends, and even strangers in our community, Christopher and his dad spent seven weeks at a facility in California and the experience exceeded ALL of our expectations. We were very encouraged as they met people who had been told in traditional therapy they would never make the gains they were making, and it was clear after much prayer, we needed to open a facility in the Atlanta area. So, 10 months after Christopher’s spinal cord injury, our doors opened to the public. Since that time we have had clients from all over the United States and world! We now also serve individuals who have suffered from a Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Transverse Myelitis, Cerebral Palsy and other neurological conditions.


Jeannie Pickard

executive director

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As Executive Director of NextStep Atlanta, the mission is very clear each day for Jeannie….to give hope again to clients and their families after the devastation of a Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, or other neurological conditions resulting in paralysis. The goal is to move clients from compensation to recovery, build confidence as they reach milestones they were told they would not reach, and to help individuals become strong and healthy, gaining their independence and life back!

Jeannie’s heart is to strive for excellence in all they do at NextStep Atlanta and to warmly welcome each person that comes through the door into the NextStep family, showing them we can relate to their situation as we’ve been there and “we get it.”

Jeannie and Paul Pickard believe so strongly in the program NextStep provides as it is based on standardized Activity Based Therapy and grounded in the most current scientific and clinical evidence.

Jeannie knows that this isn’t a business, but a ministry. She feels after experiencing with her own son what other families have experienced, there isn’t any way it could NOT be a ministry. Each phone call received daily inquiring into our program touches a tender spot in the heart, and once again the mission is clear, to help people who in an instant had so much taken from them move forward toward optimum recovery. Each time she hangs up the phone after speaking with a future client, determination sets in. She asks God to help the individual and says to herself “We WILL make a difference and change these lives for the better….it’s not about us, it’s about them!”


Taylor Shackelford

Lead Activity based therapy specialist

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Exercise Physiologist, B.S. in Exercise Science, Certified Spinal Cord Injury Specialist. Certified F.E.S. Technician, Locomotor Training Certified, Special Populations Certified. First Aid & BLS Certified

Taylor graduated from Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia with a Bachelor's in Exercise Science and a minor in Spanish. She has had prior experience working with special populations such as cerebral palsy, cancer survivors, high-school/collegiate athletes, and the geriatric population.


David Wright

Activity based therapy specialist

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David was born and raised in a small upstate New York town called Oneonta. Growing up David excelled in both academics and athletics graduating high school with honors and winning a baseball state championship in 2012 while being named 2nd Team All State. David went on to play collegiate baseball at both Chipola Junior College in Florida where he was a Panhandle Conference All Academic selection, as well as Valdosta State University in Georgia. After his athletic career he worked in the Valdosta State University athletic department as a Student Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach while finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Physiology, graduating Cum Laude in 2018. He also spent the summer of 2017 interning with the Duke University Football Strength and Conditioning Staff. David’s passion for paralysis recovery started while interning with Next Step Atlanta. He then went on to work as an Activity based trainer at NextStep Raleigh where he created and oversaw their internship program in addition to training clients. He is excited to return to NextStep Atlanta and continue in the profession of paralysis recovery. His favorite part of the job is the relationships he gets to build with the clients.

Fun Fact: Outside of paralysis recovery David’s passions include weightlifting, mentoring kids, and anything sports.


Chauntel Whatley

ACTIVITY BASED therapy specialist

Chauntel is from Montgomery, AL. She graduated from Troy University in December 2018 with a B.S. degree in Exercise Science and a Concentration in Pre-Health. 

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For two years she has done administrative work for Troy University’s Athletic Training Department. She has also interned for several months with Troy’s Elite Physical Therapy & Wellness Center where she worked closely with Dr. Sabrina Pennington in ensuring the recovery of a variety of clients. 

 In 2018 Chauntel commissioned as an Army Reserves Officer where she completes a 9 week Medical training program at Ft. Sam Houston and monthly field hospital training at Ft. Gillem. 

 Chauntel was welcomed onto the NextStep Atlanta team in February 2019. She enjoys helping NextStep’s clients reach their goals and overcome new challenges. 


Alex Jabardo

ACTIVITY BASED therapy specialist

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Alex is from Kennesaw, Georgia. Alex graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science. His favorite sport is soccer and he has been playing soccer most of his life. Alex played Division III collegiate soccer for 2 years at Piedmont College. In his free time, Alex enjoys playing guitar and video games along with swimming and other activities. His goal is to become a licensed exercise physiologist in the near future and continue his career working to improve the lives of the people I work with.


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Sidney Chason

ACTIVITY BASED therapy aide

Sidney is from Cumming, Georgia and is currently studying Human Development and Family Science at Samford University.  Sidney loves working with NextStep Atlanta clients and enjoys seeing them progress and become more independent!


Trevor Elliott

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ACTIVITY BASED therapy aide

Trevor has been a part of the NextStep family since August of 2018. He came to us through the Honor's Mentorship Program at North Forsyth High School. He will be attending Carson Newman University in the Fall. There, Trevor plans on running track and pursuing a degree in Exercise Science.




Chelsea Chavers

ACTIVITY BASED therapy aide

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Chelsea is from Tampa, Florida and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Exercise Physiology at Valdosta State University. She completed 2 years of Collegiate Volleyball at College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fl, then transferred to Valdosta State University to play her remaining 2 years. Chelsea came to NextStep Atlanta through an internship and is now an Activity Based Therapy Aide with NextStep Atlanta. Chelsea has grown to enjoy everyone she works with and loves working with our clients. She plans to receive her EKG Certification in the near future and later return to school to become a Registered Nurse.


Hannah Hamilton

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ACTIVITY BASED therapy aide

Hannah is from Forsyth County Georgia and graduated from Forsyth Central High School. She just completed her first year at the University of Georgia studying Exercise and Sports Science. Hannah wants to be a Physician's Assistant in the future! She loves playing soccer, watching football and being outdoors! She loves the people at NextStep Atlanta and getting to be a part of what we do here!


Sophia Muhammad

Assistant Office manager and exercise physiologist aide

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Sophia joined the NextStep Atlanta team in November of 2018 after being an amazing volunteer!

She has an Associate Degree in Healthcare Science while also working as a certified Phlebotomist. Sophia has less than two years left to complete her Physical Therapy Assistant degree.