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Valley News Dispatch

Restaurant employees at Pittsburgh Mills befriend autistic man who has overcome fears

| Saturday, July 7, 2018, 10:00 p.m.
Chris Gott (right), stands with his friend, Brian Hayes, and brother, Ryan Gott, in front of Charleys Philly Steaks at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on July 6, 2018.
Matthew Medsger | Tribune-Review
Chris Gott (right), stands with his friend, Brian Hayes, and brother, Ryan Gott, in front of Charleys Philly Steaks at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on July 6, 2018.
Chris Gott, right, shares a smile with his friend, Brian Hayes, while Hayes works at Charleys Philly Steaks at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on July 6, 2018.
Matthew Medsger | Tribune-Review
Chris Gott, right, shares a smile with his friend, Brian Hayes, while Hayes works at Charleys Philly Steaks at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on July 6, 2018.

Chris Gott is living a fearless life.

Gott is 30, thin, and has an infectious smile. That smile caught the attention of the employees of Charleys Philly Steaks at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer, who after years of having lunch with Gott, on Friday presented him a plaque and a gift.

“He's just a joy to be around,” manager Rebecca Belko said. “We see (Gott) mostly every day, and we've seen him accomplish so much.”

Gott wasn't always fearless, according to his mother, Clenice Vincent, 60, of Lower Burrell.

Vincent says that before last year, Gott, who lives with an autism spectrum disorder, had trouble making friends or holding a conversation.

That all changed in May 2017, when months of online communications with the employees of Charleston, W.Va.-based Healthnet Aeromedical Services culminated in Gott accomplishing a dream and taking a ride in a helicopter.

“He was scared at first, but I told him this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to give it a try,” she said.

Vincent said the experience changed him.

“Ever since then, he's been living his fearless life.”

Gott says that his life before that was “terrifying,” but that after he flew all of his fear “melted out of my body and went up to heaven with the moon.”

That fearlessness led him to making friends at the mall.

“He's a good kid. He's been coming here for years,” Charleys employee Brian Hayes said. “He's very spirited. Sometimes when you are having a bad day just talking to him can make you feel better.”

Gott, his mother said, now knows all of the employees at Charleys and they know him. They know him so well, she said, that when they heard he wanted to save up his money to buy a cornhole bean bag game, they came up with a plan.

“So all of the employees pitched in and bought him a board,” she said. “The people here are just so kind.”

Gott hugged the employees of Charleys by way of thanking them. Although, judging by their faces, the smiles he brings them on a daily basis are thanks enough.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, mmedsger@tribweb.com or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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