Young Champions to Celebrate New Building in Scottsdale and Company's Recovery From 2009 Arson Fire That Killed Employee

Young Champions, a Valley-based youth organization that teaches kids karate, cheerleading, and other activites, wants you to know it's back in action following a horrific 2009 arson fire.

Tomorrow, (March 31), the company will host a grand-opening celebration for its new Scottsdale office at 16451 North 90th Street. The event is expected to draw about 200 people and will feature food, live entertainment, dance, and karate performances. A sign-lighting ceremony for the new building is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The company had inhabited temporary offices since the fire that destroyed its previous building near 40th Street and Baseline roads, but it still managed to grow. Rory Hood, Young Champions president and son of founder Bonnie Hood, says the company now enrolls about 14,000 kids in Arizona and Texas -- an all-time high.

After the June 14, 2009 fire, which killed one of the four Young Champions karate instructors who started it, Hood had briefly considered throwing in the towel. Not only was the company's building gone, but numerous office records and years' worth of memorabilia.

In January 2010, New Times published a comprehensive story about the devious plot to destroy Young Champions and the lives affected by that crime.

The arson fire killed Joshua Robinson, 28, a divorced father of three who burst into flames after he struck a match while standing in a gasoline-soaked office.

Jonathan Antonucci, Jeffrey Otto, and Moniza Murillo, (all either 19 or 20 on the night of the arson), were each sentenced to 14, 10, and four years in prison, respectively.

Antonucci, the eldest son of a Baptist preacher and a vivacious instructor who was popular with his karate students, had embezzled from the company before the blaze.

Hood says the lesson he and his employees have learned is that even under "extreme adversity," you can't give up.

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