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Verrill Farm Destroyed but to be Rebuilt

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Yesterday at 3:30PM I received my regular customer e-mail from Verrill Farm. This one informed me about their turkey order from Stonewood Farm Turkeys in Vermont. Little did I know that something terrible was happening about the time of the e-mail. Verrill Farm burned down yesterday. The result of a suspected electrical problem causing the propane tanks to explode. This is a very sad day for the community.

The farm consists of 200 acres. The farm started in 1918 as a dairy business. In 1982, after years of planning and negotiations, the land was placed under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction, thus preventing development of this land. In 1990, the dairy herd was sold and plans began to replace the existing tent retail space with a new farm stand, which was built in 1995.

We go to Verrill all the time. I pass by it several times a week on my way into work in Boston. It's just a lovely oasis. They have the best corn and the best tomatoes, and they celebrate every summer with their annual "Corn and Tomato Festival". This year, unfortunately, the festival was cancelled because of rains. Little were we to know that this would happen shortly thereafter.

We give the Verrill's our best wishes and prayers.

Steve Verrill released this statement in early October 2008:

As many of you know, a fire destroyed our farmstand Saturday, September 20. We are grateful that everyone made it out of the stand safely and that our fields were not touched by fire. Thanks to all of our customers, friends, business associates and neighbors who have stopped to offer support - it is appreciated and the out pouring of concern is over-whelming. Many have asked how they can help. For those who would like to contribute to the rebuilding of the stand, we have set up a special account, The Verrill Farmstand Fund, at the Middlesex Savings Bank, 1208 Main Street, West Concord, MA 01742. Another important way to help is shopping at the temporary stand which supports both the farm and our employees. On Monday, September 22 we started selling corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, mums and more from the wagon we used before the farmstand was built. Soon there will be a temporary building where you will find a selection of familiar items including our own baked goods, produce and other items. We're open from 9 am - 6 pm every day - we look forward to seeing you!

External Link: Verrill Farm

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Five Star Gymnastics Renamed in wake of child sex abuse scandal

The sex abuse scandal of Five Star Gymnastics' owner Steve DiTullio and his friend Steve Infante has been widely reported, both here and in the local and national press.  A couple of weeks ago the Five Star Gymnastics sign on Great Road (Rte. 117) in Stow was taken down and its website was replaced with a new logo and name-10.0 Academy under the ownership of Christalle and Dave Auger. While I have nothing against either of these two fine individuals and wish them every success, it is important to note that it remains to be seen how complete the change of ownership is.  Christalle is Steve DiTullio's daughter and Dave is her husband.  There are no comments on the website (still named fivestargymnastics.com and with a couple of remaining and embarrassing references to Five Star Gymnastics) concerning the "situation" which is still under investigation and prosecution. DiTullio and Infante are still required to make regular appearances in court as the case continues. The 10-0gymnastics.org website is not currently available, even though the site is advertised on the new sign and on the old website's logo. A potential parent would have no indication that any alleged impropriety has occurred.  There have also been no letters in the local press from the new owners addressing the situation that has occurred (e.g., what role Steve DiTullio is playing, assurances of safety,  explanation of allowing Infante to coach students at Five Star despite the USAG lifetime ban, etc).  If the new owners want to be viewed as legitimate, they must address these issues publicly. If they do not, parents should still be wary.

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Explanation for Pictures Emerges

| By Admin |  

Over the past couple of days, an explanation for the damaging pictures that have been circulating around the Internet has emerged. The pictures I am concerned about are the ones showing a girl in handcuffs and the photographic proof that Infante was at the camp, despite a lifetime ban by USA Gymnastics. It bothers me greatly that not only it is a fact that Infante was there and participated in activities, but that he was allowed to touch girls and in one picture appeared to be about to spank a young girl. Given that the USA Gymnastics ban was based on credible evidence, it is unforgivable that the organizers of the camp would allow Infante to participate in any capacity. It is also inexcusable that USA Gymnastics did not report what they learned to the police nearly a decade ago.

The handcuff pictures show DiTullio, and apparently an off duty police officer who was dating one of the coaches, applying handcuffs to a 12-13 year old girl to her wrists and ankles and then coupling them together to hogtie her. The explanation for this, that I have heard verbally from some who were involved, is that everyone in the room consented to it and there was a desire to feel what it would be like to be handcuffed and to try to get out of an awkward situation. Some of these people are saying I took the pictures out of context and I am doing harm by writing about this. While there may have been no harm intended and while the girl involved-and others who witnessed it-may not have felt it was harmful, it does not make what was done right. Ever. The context does not matter.

I will leave it to others to determine whether what happened was a crime. Consider this was a gymnastics camp where kids as young as 8 years old attended. It was not a camp to learn about magic or Houdini. I highly doubt that parents who allowed their kids to go to the camp knew that something like that was going to happen. And the fact that my 8 year old was encouraged to attend this very camp makes me wonder what effect this would have on younger kids. Even if the younger kids were not in the room, what happened could have found its way back to them. There is no excuse for this deplorable and disgusting behavior by adults. Ignorance is certainly not an excuse that anyone should accept.

As I said in a previous post, often our first instinct is to rationalize experiences even if they are wrong. If you can rationalize what happened, then so be it. But I believe doing so makes our kids drastically less safe. Apparently the authorities did not rationalize it in the same way that some parents have nor have prominent psychiatrists I have talked to about this.

In a separate incident, it has been widely reported that this fall DiTullio taped four gymnasts' mouths closed with tape going under their chin and over their heads. There was a mixed reaction from parents and not an apology by DiTullio or any admission of wrongdoing. Apparently the girls involved, including one as young as 9, were not upset over the incident. And, so, apparently that makes it okay? Again, this goes to my point about kids-and apparently adults-rationalizing their experiences. From these two examples, the taping and handcuffs, it appears a pattern is emerging of abuse of power, at the minimum, that is troubling to say the least.

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