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Area businesses, friends help raise money for burned woman

Friends will go “as long as it takes” to raise money for a woman who was burned by her husband nearly two weeks ago, said USF student Gregory Muscari.

“For as long as she’s in the hospital – which will be a while,” Muscari said.

A Chili’s restaurant in Brandon and 30 others in the Tampa Bay area have set up donation boxes with Audrey Mabrey’s picture on them to collect money and help pay for Mabrey’s bills.

Mabrey’s husband, Christopher Peter Hanney, is accused of striking her in the head with a hammer, dousing her with accelerant and lighting her on fire in their Apollo Beach home on Nov. 17. Mabrey remains at Tampa General Hospital in an induced coma to alleviate pain from severe burns.

The 30 stores in the area will hold their annual “Chili Head Challenge” on Tuesday, when restaurant employees will compete in various games and activities.

This year, they’ve dedicated the event to Mabrey, a Chili’s employee. All restaurants plan to bring cash donations, said Lara Penty, Chili’s restaurant manager.

“We hope to raise a good $5 (thousand) to $10,000,” Penty said.

“She is our team member. We’re Alike one big family.”

Muscari, who has worked with Mabrey at Chili’s for five years, said he hopes enough funds will be collected to go a long way.

“When it comes to medical bills, I don’t think it will ever be enough because they’re astronomical … We’re trying to get it out there to as many people as possible. That way, it’s one less thing she has to worry about when she’s up and about,” said Muscari, a junior majoring in international studies.

Funds collected at the restaurants will pay for Mabrey’s rent through January, said Laura April, a former Chili’s employee and friend of Mabrey’s for over four years.

On Dec. 17, Linksters Tap Room in Brandon will host an all-day fundraiser, including a golf tournament. A portion of Linksters sales that day will be given to Mabrey, April said.

Some money from parking fees at Tampa Bay Buccaneers football games will go to Mabrey as well, she said.

“There’s so many different things,” April said. “It’s too much to add up in my head.”

Individuals have donated Christmas gifts for Mabrey’s two children: 4-year-old Malachai and 11-month-old Malik.

The support Mabrey has received shows April that people in the community care and will do anything to help.

“She’s such a strong, strong person. I can’t even stress that enough … You don’t realize how much somebody means to other people,” April said. “It takes such a tragedy to bring a community and friends closer. And I hate to say that, but it’s brought me closer to a lot of people, and it’s sad that it took this for that to happen.”

Individuals can also donate to the Audrey Mabrey and Children Fund at any Bank of America.

Mabrey attends Hillsborough Community College with the hope of being a teacher, April said. Friends say she is an all-around beautiful person, and they remember when she auditioned for American Idol.

“All I can hear is her in my head singing and laughing,” April said. “It’s crazy. I dream about it. She sings really well.”

Muscari said she did not expect Hanney to inflict pain on Mabrey.

“I never would have guessed that he’s a person that would be capable of any of this,” Muscari said. “Good father, nice person. Just something snapped.”

Mabrey, who has second to third degree burns from the waist up, has undergone multiple surgeries and is somewhat responsive to visitors, April said.

“When we talk, she knows that we’re there,” she said. “She wiggles her feet and nods her head.”

Hanney remains in jail with no bond. He faces two felony charges: attempted first-degree murder and first-degree arson of a dwelling.