Chase Stroud proudly displays the plaque he received as the Tony Stikeleather Special Olympics Iredell County Athlete of the Year.

Special to Iredell Free News

Chase Stroud, son of Randy and Susan Stroud, has been named the Tony Stikeleather Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.

Hannah Elsenboss and Kayla Bryden, daughters of the late Tony Stikeleather, congratulate Chase after the presentation.

The award was presented at the recent Special Olympics Iredell County Donor Appreciation Banquet by Hannah Elsenboss and Kayla Bryden, daughters of the late Tony Stikeleather, and by the 2019 award recipient, Reece Williams. Sarah Stikeleather, Tony’s daughter and fellow athlete, was not able to attend the banquet.

Stroud was nominated by his Special Olympics coaches and selected to receive the honor by the Special Olympics Iredell County Steering Committee for the 2023 season. Stroud was chosen as the athlete who most exemplified the qualities that Tony Stikeleather embodied as a coach. Those qualities of unconditional commitment are perseverance, inspiration, positive attitude, encourager, caring, strong work ethic, and dedication. The award was created in 2019 to honor the coaching legacy of Coach Tony Stikeleather, who had coached as a volunteer since 2004.

Stroud is skilled in most sports offered by Special Olympics: basketball, flag football, tennis, bocce, bowling, sailing, softball and snowboarding. He earned a spot on the 2018 Special Olympics North Carolina Bocce Team and won a silver medal at Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Wash.

Additionally, his family was nominated and selected as Special Olympics North Carolina Family of the Year in 2023. As a Special Olympics Athlete Ambassador, Stroud eagerly shares his experiences as an athlete whenever called upon. He has spoken to numerous groups, organizations and on the radio to increase awareness of Special Olympics. He has a pure heart of gold, always cheering on his fellow athletes and encouraging them to try new sports. He is a true leader and inspiration to everyone he encounters. His humble, caring nature and positive attitude shine brighter than any medal he will ever receive.

Stroud and fellow athletes, Preston Fox, Sissy Blackwell, Jonathan Humes and Will Gandy celebrate their success at the first softball team from Iredell County to compete at Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Games.

When asked how he felt about being chosen to receive this award, Chase said, “When me and my family arrived at the banquet that night there were several things that I was thinking about but receiving the Tony Stikeleather Athlete of the Year Award was not one of them. When the time came to present the award, there were several athletes that I had in mind that deserved the athlete of the year. When my buddy, Reece, won the very first Athlete of the Year Award back in 2019, I was so happy for him.

“That is why I was completely shocked when Tony’s daughters called me up to receive the award,” he added. “It was such an honor that I had so many different feelings at that moment so I wasn’t sure how I felt. Now that I have had time to think about it, I feel so blessed to have been named the 2023 Athlete of the Year, and I want to thank everyone who voted for me. It still feels like something I dreamed.”