About Us

We are redefining rehabilitation

Jon O’Connor was an entrepreneur, visionary, philanthropist, aviation enthusiast, caring and compassionate person who’s mission allowed him to be a beacon of hope for people with neurological conditions by providing them with a place to continue their journey after their traditional therapy concluded. 

At the age of 29, Jon established the O’Connor Foundation to provide financial support to charities such as Maryville Academy, an Illinois orphanage for abused children.  His success in the construction business, along with his passion for investing in the markets, afforded him the wherewithal to financially support such charities. Perhaps more importantly, he found time to serve as a mentor to a group that desperately needed one.

Tragically, in July 2001, at his 30th birthday party in front of friends and family, he became a quadriplegic when he hit his head on an underwater obstruction after jumping off a dock. The blow left him with a C4 spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the neck down, leaving Jon with only limited use of his right arm. After months of hospitalization and physical rehabilitation in Chicago, Jon returned home motionless and frustrated that there were no other options in the area to provide him with long-term therapeutic interventions to improve or maintain his function and health.   Jon knew and believed that having access to resources that allowed an opportunity to engage in cutting-edge therapies such as gait training, functional electrical stimulation and robotic-assisted exercise programs could greatly impact a person living with spinal cord injury in a positive manner. 

Accompanied by his father, Jon spent the next three years looking for rehabilitation answers and alternatives across the country.  Jon’s journey crossed paths with that of Christopher Reeve. Jon and Christopher spoke together of their ability to access therapies and the desperate need for others to more easily benefit  as they had. Jon’s spirit, work ethic, and drive led him to return home to Chicago with a goal of creating an accessible gym for individuals living with the devastation of a spinal cord injury (“SCI”).  In 2004, under Jon’s guidance, a gym was built in Willow Springs to offer low cost exercise therapy to individuals living with the catastrophic consequences related to SCI. NextSteps was created. Jon gave his plan to others in the SCI community who went on to open their own centers around the country.  

As word of the gym’s existence spread through the SCI community, Jon quickly realized that there was a greater need beyond the SCI community, persons experiencing and living with chronic neurological conditions also needed access to long-term rehabilitation.  In 2008 Jon added a licensed physical therapist to the facility to better serve its clientele by offering aggressive, activity-based exercise rehabilitation options for both physical therapy and neuro-adaptive fitness and wellness programs.

Sadly, in July 2013, the foundation lost its leader when Jon, at the age of 42, unexpectedly succumbed due to secondary effects of his paralysis. Today, the foundation continues to provide affordable, innovative, evidence based rehabilitation and exercise programs for people living with any type of neurological impairment. 

To read more about Jon O’Connor click on this link:  Chicago Tribune Article.

WHY NEXTSTEPS

NextSteps offers a unique fusion of physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and personal trainers working in tandem to provide functional, activity-based and specific locomotor training for people with neurological disorders. Next Steps was the first free standing, non-profit physical therapy and exercise facility devoted to the rehabilitation and overall wellness of people living with some of the most challenging and devastating injuries and disorders – SCI, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and an array of other devastating neurological conditions. NextSteps is devoted to offering patients an exercise/rehabilitation facility that will aid them in taking their next step towards a functional, independent, and healthy lifestyle. NextSteps is committed to helping patients regain a higher quality of life, while integrating and conducting scientific research in hopes of finding a cure for paralysis.

Our staff and facility offer an environment and culture in which clients and therapists  strive together for achievement of functional goals and improved health. Functional goals may include:  improved walking and standing, transfer ability, trunk stability, posture, balance, and strength, and sport participation.  Health and wellness goals include: significant gains in cardiovascular and pulmonary function, increased bone density, decreased spasticity, reduction in the risk of skin lesions, and enhanced glucose tolerance.

Next Steps Founder Jon O’Connor was an entrepreneur, visionary, philanthropist, aviation enthusiast, caring and compassionate person

OUR FACILITY

Offering an environment for overall health improvements

NextSteps offers a unique fusion of physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and personal trainers working closely together to provide activity-based locomotor therapy for people with neurological conditions. We are the first non-profit physical therapy and exercise facility devoted to the rehabilitation and overall wellness of people living with neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, and more.

NextSteps is devoted to offering patients an exercise/rehabilitation facility that will aid them in taking their next step towards a more functional, independent, and healthy lifestyle. Not only is NextSteps committed to helping patients regain a higher quality of life, but also to support the advancement of scientific research that will aid in the treatment of spinal cord injury.

Our staff and facility offer an environment in which clients strive for achievement in meeting functional goals and overall health improvements.

We promised to take care… and delivered

What our patients are saying

  • I have been to quite a few rehab places since my injury . This place is truly incredible. I've worked with Jim and Corey and both of them are great and know what they are doing. the machines and the equipment they have is also top of the line.
    Roman Dzyubinskyy Patient
  • If I could give this place more than just five stars I would. Because every single person that works there is a star in my book. From the second you walk into NextSteps you are more than just a patient,you are a friend. A friend who receives all the support needed to forge ahead. I could go on and on about this wonderful place and amazing people but I have to keep it short and sweet.
    Diana Carranza Patient
  • I have never met a more enthusiastic, dedicated and effective group of therapists and trainers than those at Next Steps. I actually look forward to each and every session no matter how vigorous or challenging. I keep bursting through "plateaus" that others have decreed. Never Give Up!
    Frank Mraz Patient
  • Great place for rehabilitation and improving quality of life. The staff here give their full attention and support into your therapy. I enjoy all therapy sessions and workout classes and look forward to the time I spend at Next Steps!
    Jason Lopez Patient
  • Highly recommend this place. Everything about this place is wonderful, not one bad thing to say. Therapists are all very welcoming, knowledgeable and great at what they do. They all have a great sense of humor, which for me helps a lot. Cory is great! He knows how to make therapy beneficial but also a good time. Every therapist here genuinely cares about your needs and goals and only want to do their best to help you get stronger to achieve your goals. Out of all the places I’ve been to for physical therapy, Next Steps is the only place where I actually look forward to coming.
    Taylor Gestes Patient