Tammy Cromie-Wilkins hugs her daughter Sarah Stikeleather after a gold medal performance in swimming at 2013 Special Olympics NC Summer Games.
“She is a tremendous inspiration,” said Tammy Cromie-Wilkins, giving her daughter Sarah a hug. “She’s battled so many medical issues and life threatening diseases and still comes out here and gives her blood, sweat and tears in her events. I don’t know how you grow that kind of strength.”
The young Stikeleather is a fighter as well as a competitor and it’s been that way her entire life. Doctors have diagnosed her twice with “the big C” and twice she’s beaten the cancer. At age four, she was diagnosed with leukemia and that came after having endured open heart surgery and multiple ear surgeries as a toddler. After two and a half years of chemo and radiation, her leukemia went into remission. Then in 2009, amidst dealing with seizures and blood pressure issues, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After surgery to remove her thyroid and radiation,; today she is relatively in good health.
“Sarah has taught me so much more than I’ll ever teach her,” said her mother. “She’s taught me, no limits, no I can’ts, and no matter the outcome, it’s the journey there that matters. And we don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. “
Special Olympics has been Stikeleather’s outlet since she was nine years-old. In her career, she has participated in swimming, track & field, bocce, bowling, alpine skiing, equestrian and golf. Her mom is her coach in all those sports except equestrian.
“I like to be active,” said Stikeleather. “I love to workout. It helps me go fast in practice. And I like to win gold. It’s my favorite to win.”
“You can’t find enough adjectives to describe the athletes’ determination and dedication,” said Cromie- Wilkins. “Being a coach, I see just how very hard Sarah and all the other athletes work. You simply can’t complain when you know what these athletes deal with and then see them put forth the effort they do in their sports.”
About Megan O'Donnell: I met Sarah's mom during the swimming awards ceremony at the 2013 SONC Summer Games and we got talking about all she's been through in her life...What a fighter, what a competitor, what a champion!