Johnstown fifth-grader Kimi McClelland greeted Barack Obama with a hug in what was touted as his early inauguration Jan. 15, when he was unveiled as the newest member of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Las Vegas.

Johnstown fifth-grader Kimi McClelland greeted Barack Obama with a hug in what was touted as his early inauguration Jan. 15, when he was unveiled as the newest member of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Las Vegas.

Kimi, 11, was vacationing with her family - parents Shelley and Rick McClelland, sister Elise, an Oregon first-grader and brother David, a preschooler.
"When they unveiled Barack Obama's wax statue, she charged right up there and gave it a hug," said Shelley McClelland. "She weaseled her way right up to it and hugged it. She's very aware who he is.

"They let her go," she said. "They took a couple of pictures and she was in the Las Vegas Sun (newspaper)."

McClelland said Kimi has Asperger's Syndrome (AS), a high functioning form of autism. By definition, those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area Often, people with AS are extremely passionate about one or two topics.

"She's our little patriot," Shelley McClelland said. "She was up at 3 a.m. this morning (inauguration day). She had her bed made and she was ready. She couldn't wait to go to school to share souvenirs and show her picture in the paper. It's a special thing for her."

Kimi has said from the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign that she would vote Obama, even though her parents are Republicans.

"She has disabilities but is passionate about something," McClelland said of her daughter. "She's extremely patriotic. We have a party for Veterans Day. We have red, white and blue cake. She's very patriotic with all her heart."

McClelland said her husband had a business trip out west that allowed the family a week-long vacation, including the visit to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum for the unveiling of Obama's statue.

Shelley McClelland, a 1988 J-M graduate, appreciates teachers within the Johnstown district.

"Kimi was born (out west) but when we had a special needs child, I wanted to come home to the teachers I know," she said. "I graduated from here and my parents also graduated from here."

McClelland said Kimi was ecstatic to share her experience of the wax Obama unveiling with her classmates on Tuesday.

"I knew she would go to school and blow it up big," she said. "She thinks she's a star. She's our patriot."