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'WOW! WE'RE PRETTY SPECIAL'

A Chinese New Year celebration of the Asian Connection, a newly formed parent group that shares information about Asian adoptions, brought together parents and their adopted children from China, Vietnam, the Marshall Islands, Cambodia, and Korea -- including Aria Tung, 4, and her mother Gea Tung, of Buffalo.

Aria, whose name is an Italian approximation of her Chinese birth name, Kuoyung, meaning "to sing," lost both hands in an accident at 16 months and had been abandoned on the street in China, Tung says. The child had been in an orphanage in southwestern China for two and a half years, with no prospects for adoption, when Gea happened to visit the orphanage. Aria manages very well without hands, but being a girl and having a handicap in China she "might as well have died," said Tung, who has grandchildren who are Aria's age.

The Asian Connection, which formed about a year ago and includes about 60 families who meet to share information and support, offers "a great opportunity for the children to see that there are lots of other children who come from China, who are adopted, and to mix and get a sense of 'Wow! We're pretty special and we're not isolated and different,' " Tung noted.

The group meets each month in rooms provided by Baker Victory Services in Lackawanna, and also takes outings to the Buffalo Zoo or the Carrousel Museum. "Adoption is a wonderful thing. It's very rewarding for us," said Tung.

The Asian Connection can be contacted by e-mail at a_connection@hotmail.com.

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