OUR TEAM

Our Team is made of rare individuals who have chosen to make a difference by helping others. Love that. You will not find a better staff in the world, you are in great hands with our certified activity based trainers!

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KAREN THOR

FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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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.


YOLANDA ORTIZ

DIRECTOR of training

As Director of NextStep, Yolanda 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.

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Yolanda was born in Watertown, NY, but grew up mostly in Clarksville, Tennessee. She made her way to North Carolina after attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville as a communications and journalism major. After working for a local bar entertainment company in Durham as a marketing assistant, she decided to shift gears and pursue a new career path. 

She is a graduate of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Durham Technical Community College. Currently she is working at a local hospital in acute care working with neuro, orthopedic and general medicine patients.

Despite never playing sports when she grew up, Yolanda spent a lot of time in the gym as a teenager taking group fitness classes with her older sister which sparked a passion for fitness at a young age. Yolanda believes in the power of movement and movement as medicine for maintaining physical and mental health along the life span. 

She teaches fitness classes, loves training with kettlebells, maces and indian clubs, dabbles in local Spartan Races and enjoys Latin dancing. Yolanda is also a certified yoga instructor and recently completed her certification in Integrative Reflexology ® and hopes to further her education and training in adaptive fitness with special populations.
 


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KAYLEIGH DOLPHIN

ACTIVITY BASED TRAINER

Kayleigh was born in California but has lived in many states, eventually ending up in North Carolina. She received her Bachelors Degree in Athletic Training from Campbell University. While in the program she worked with the Camels Football and Track and Field teams as well as a variety of special populations including, military and law enforcement personnel. After graduating she went on to get her Masters Degree in Sport Management with a Certificate in Project Management from Western Carolina University. While she was there she also worked as an Intern Athletic Trainer with the Football and Track and Field teams. From there she went on to Guilford College working as an Assistant Athletic Trainer with the Volleyball, Women’s Soccer, and Men’s Lacrosse teams. In addition to her position she was a preceptor for the UNC Greensboro Masters in Athletic Training Program. While at Guilford she also had the role of an Adjunct Professor, teaching in the Sport Studies Department.

Throughout her career Kayleigh has become passionate about researching and learning unique practices and trainings to add to her toolbox. Some of these include Postural Restoration, Dry Cupping, Gua Sha, Breathing Training, and taping techniques using RockTape and Kinesio Tape.

Kayleigh is a Board Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and is currently anticipating her certification for Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES). She plans to use that to improve the quality of life of the clients she interacts with through her work as an Activity Based Trainer at NextStep Raleigh.


NICK FOSTER

Activity based trainer

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Nick was born in California, but grew up mostly in Northern Kentucky, until attending college at the University of Louisville (UofL) in Kentucky. In Louisville, Nick became a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and worked with various general population clients in health and fitness at the Student Recreation Center and Louisville Spinal Care.

Starting employment with Frazier Rehab and Neuroscience Center in Louisville, Nick worked in the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Outpatient clinic as an Activity-Based Trainer (ABT). Where he assisted adults in Locomotor Training and neuro-focused Physical and Occupational Therapy.

Pursuing his immense interest in research, Nick joined the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at UofL and contributed towards technical and experimental operations with Pediatric SCI populations. During his time there, he became NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) and HIPAA certified.

With his for love for exercise/rehabilitation and emerging healthcare/therapeutic technologies, Nick is presently seeking Translational Neuroscience or Biomedical Engineering graduate programs within the Research Triangle. Currently, Nick holds a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) in Law and Public Policy, and is pursuing technical certifications (CCNA, Sec+, CISSP) as well as his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification. With hopes to bring novel healthcare/therapeutic techniques from the research world to the real world, with a goal to help the public with technology, safety, and security in mind.