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FishHawk community fondly remembers philanthropist who never said ‘No’

By Crystal Owens, Times Correspondent
Published: December 7, 2017 Updated: December 8, 2017 at 06:09 PM
Madison McFarland embraces Hannah Schaffer during a candlelight vigil on Wednesday at Park Square Plaza in FishHawk for Christopher James Scigliano. Photo by Crystal Owens | Special to the Times

LITHIA — The word "no" was rarely in Christopher James Scigliano’s vocabulary.

A natural philanthropist, the 44-year-old Lithia business owner was always the first to volunteer when anyone needed help, whether it was raising money for a police officer’s family, changing the smoke detector batteries for a stranger or acquiring a fire truck for a night to ride in while dressed as Santa during the holidays.

Scigliano’s impact on the FishHawk community was evident Wednesday as dozens attended a candlelight vigil in his honor at Park Square Plaza, where speakers told stories of selfless deeds and his good-natured personality.

"He was a huge leader in this community," said Melanie Brockmeier-Jordy, founder of Operation Lotus, a Riverview nonprofit that helps grieving individuals. "He was always giving his time to serve others.

"I thought since he was such a huge part of this community we should get together, show them our love and show him how much he was loved and missed in the community. We really wanted his family to know they have the support of the community. They’re not alone."

Scigliano died Saturday while directing traffic for a fundraiser for Hillsborough County Deputy Larry Morrell, a 25-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office and DUI investigator who died from cancer in June. Scigliano had stepped onto Lithia Pinecrest Road and was hit by a truck driven by Kevin Hancock, 46, of Lithia. The impact pushed Scigliano into another lane of traffic, where he was hit by an SUV driven by Steven A. Hall, 41, of Tampa. The incident is still under investigation.

Scigliano owned the Wayback Burgers restaurant in Lithia and often worked with the FishHawk Ranch homeowners association, A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, Relay for Life and many more good causes.

"He was always helping someone," said Bob Abruzzese, a 10-year friend of Scigliano. "I mean, he worked his regular job, but he always had these events going on like fundraisers for a police officer’s wife and events for kids.

"I don’t think the guy ever knew how to say no."

Scigliano’s strong will to help encouraged others in the community to pay it forward, they said, as his energy was contagious.

"I tried to support all of his activities," said Theresa Horan Balbisi, who met Scigliano four years ago when he changed her smoke detector batteries after three days of annoying chirping. "And ever since then, I’ve tried to do what I can to help out in the community."

Balbisi said she met Scigliano when she posted a plea for help on the community’s website.

Within minutes he responded.

A GoFundMe campaign is set up for Scigliano’s wife, Maryanne; three children, ages 11, 9 and 3; and stepson, 21.

You can also help the family through Operation Lotus at, where 100 percent of the money will be given to his family.

Contact Crystal Owens at [email protected]