“Assisting parents to help their challenged children achieve their full potential”
The story of the Children of Hope Academy begins way back in 1976 when Diana and Alton Wade welcomed their beautiful daughter Cindy, who was born with Downs Syndrome, into the world. Not wanting to do what the doctors advised, which was to just take Cindy home and love her or put her into to a state institution where she would not be a burden of time or finances for the rest of the family, they started out on a course of action dictated mostly by inspiration from on high to Diana. In fact in the recent months and years to come, they did opposite of what was advised by the doctors. Through much trial and error they stumbled upon the National Association for Child Development (NACD) in Ogden, Utah and began Cindy in their program. Amazed by the progress Cindy made, Diana became more heavily involved in NACD and started chapters in St. George and Hawaii. Diana became well known in the Down Syndrome circles and began spreading hope and awareness to families who felt defeated by their child’s diagnosis. Diana started with 7 individuals who came to her house daily to learn and do their NACD program with her. Although teaching in her home was comfortable for the time being, for years Diana had dreamed of opening a school where individuals with special needs could come to continue their education, overcome challenges, and defy the odds of what was expected of them. In 2008, they began looking for a space and came upon a run down building that was donated to them. Alton looked to Diana and exclaimed, “There is no way we are doing this!” , to which she replied, “It is perfect”. Through hundreds of hours, members of our community donating their time, labor, and money, the school blossomed from a run down, non usable property to a building that housed light, growth, and hope. Today, this school provides a home to 21 students and continues to see miracles in their lives.
The Children of Hope Academy received its name from the book “Children of Hope, Children of Dreams” by Raymundo Veras. After hearing the other options, the parents of our students felt that this name best incorporated the light and life of their beloved children.
Board of Directors
Alton L Wade is one of the co-founders of Children of Hope Academy. He attended Brigham Young University where he received a Bachelor of Science (1959), a Masters of Art from California State University (1962), and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from BYU (1973). He has worked as a high school teacher, teacher/Vice Principal/Principle of the Church College of New Zealand, Zone Administrator for the LDS Church Educational System, President of Dixie State College, President of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, and Vice President of Student Life BYU Provo. He has been a branch president, Stake President, Mission President of the Washington DC South Mission, Temple Sealer, and Stake Patriarch in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Alton is married to his sweetheart, Diana, and lives happily with his wife, children, and grandchildren in St. George, Utah.
Diana Mae Daniels Wade is a passionate activist and voice for individuals with special needs and their families. She graduated with a Bachelors of Science in 1959 from Brigham Young University and continued a life full of accomplishments some of which include; teacher in Long Beach California, Distinguished Service to Family Award (BYU, 2006), Emeritus Life Member- Phi Kappa Phi (2000), Distinguished Service Award (BYU 1994), and the Keynote Speaker at the BYU-Hawaii Women’s Conference (1992). Diana became truly involved when her youngest daughter, Cindy, was born with down syndrome in 1967. She led chapters of the National Association for Child Development in Hawaii and Utah. It was Diana’s dream to open up a school where people with special needs could continue their education, development and show others how truly smart and capable they are. Today she continues to educate others and spend time with her family, which is her greatest passion. She is the proud mother of 8 children, 36 grandchildren, and 18 great grandchildren.
Lisa Peery is the mother of 6 amazing children and daughter of Diana and Alton Wade. Growing up with her sister Cindy, who has down syndrome, Lisa gained a love for individuals with special needs. She then continued that passion and graduated with a Special Education Degree from Brigham Young University-Hawaii in 1995. She enjoys running, biking, gardening, sewing, repairing things, creating memories, and working hard.
Julie Nielsen is a devoted mother, grandmother, and board member. She is a retired school teacher of 34 years, teaching both at elementary and secondary levels. She was involved in the implantation and creation of the Post High program (an educational program for individuals with special needs between the age of 18-22). After retiring, she continued to substitute and aid in the Post High Program for Washington County School District. Julie’s daughters, Melissa and Jill, were some of the first students to attend the Children of Hope Academy. Melissa was the first student to graduate from the NACD program, but still attends, continues to learn, and aid all her fellow students in their education. Jill loves school and has discovered a new love for reading. Both girls have jobs in the community and belong to a disability awareness group called ‘The Don’t Laugh At Me Players’ who perform around the community making people aware of the needs and rights of people with disabilities.
Sherri Dial is the mother of five children, including her daughter J.J. who has down syndrome, and the grandmother of eight. Sherri has been involved with COHA for over ten years. She is thrilled with the progress JJ has made on her social, educational, and physical skills by utilizing a personalized NACD program. COHA has been amazingly helpful in providing support and direction working on accomplishing JJ goals. Sherri Dial has worked as a Parent Consultant for the Utah Parent Center serving the Washington County Utah School District. She assisted families with children who have disabilities to navigate the services and supports for their children, coordinated and presented workshops, and attended IEP meetings for individual students. Sherri has also been the Director of Community Action for the Five County Association of Governments, teacher for Early Intervention, Coordinator for Rural Health Scholars, and the Disability Resource Coordinator and faculty member at Dixie State University. Sherri has a Bachelor of Science (BS) from California State University in Sociology and received a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Southern Utah University. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Family Health Care Center and (since 2019) Children of Hope Academy. Other programs she has been involved with include the Southern Utah Down Syndrome Association, Community Action of Utah, Utah Food Bank, Five County Emergency Food Network, Local Homeless Coordinating Committee, and the Family to Family Network. She has also served on the Utah Developmental Disability Council, Utah Civil Rights Council and Red Rock Center for Independence Board.
Lindy Bradbury moved to St George with her family 31 years ago. She and her children have enjoyed the many activities that the Southern Utah area has to offer. Lindy has worked in several positions through the years including owning her own house cleaning business, medical receptionist, Orthodontic Assistant & Treatment Coordinator, Area Coordinator for the Dental Cooperative of Utah, Financial Coordinator for Eagle Ranch Academy(an inpatient rehab for troubled teens). Lindy currently works as a licensed Realtor and a Clinician for PIBCOA of St George. Lindy and her husband Steve share 7 children and 17 grandchildren. Brady Christensen, their 35 year old son with Down Syndrome lives with them. Lindy was one of the original founders of DOWN SOUTH, a support group for families with children with Down Syndrome in Southern Utah. Steve and Lindy just spent the last 2.5 years serving as missionaries for the Addiction Recovery Program for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Director and Assistant Director
Stephenee Linton Dial (Director) began working at Children of Hope Academy as a tutor for her sister-in-law, JJ Dial. Learning about the NACD program and philosophy through teaching skills to JJ, increased her awareness of the needs and possibilities for people struggling with learning. In 2018 she accepted the position of Director at COHA. Her qualifications include working with the NACD program to assist in increasing students skills and brain development, education classes for teaching, interning with the Washington County School District, and Five County Association of Governments. Additionally, Stephenee received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in Art History from Dixie State University in 2017 with Honors. Stephenee was born in Salt Lake and moved to Santa Clara when she was in high school. Stephenee and her husband, Patrick, got married in 2015. She literally married the boy next door, and now they are looking forward to moving into their new house they are building.
Bobbie Slade (Assistant Director) is a St. George native and new to the Children of Hope Academy family. Bobbie graduated from Desert Hills High school and attended Southern Utah University as an International Student Ambassador. She then decided to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was called to the Idaho Pocatello Mission. Bobbie’s love and passion for individuals with specials needs started when she 16 years old as a peer tutor at her high school. Since then she has been a counselor for Special Needs Mutual, worked with Turn Community Services, and worked with many students at Children of Hope Academy. Bobbie is currently attending Dixie State University and enjoying life with her wonderful husband and family.