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December 25, 2012

Little Princess, Part 2: Despite two heart surgeries, five-year-old from China experiences a whole new world

NEW CASTLE — The only thing that five-year-old Mia Vogel knew about Disney World was that princesses lived there.

Finally, a place where she belonged.

Matt Vogel said his adopted daughter is a princess, too.

“She’s very independent,” said Matt, who noted Mia is not as shy as one might think for a little girl who was abandoned at an orphanage in China and spent almost four years there.

“She was on her own there and knows how to fend for herself.”

Mia wore a Cinderella dress for the special occasion. She exchanged words and hugs with all of the theme park’s royalty.

“Pretty and nice” was how Mia described the princesses.

Mia, who endured two heart operations in 24 months since arriving in America two years ago, was gifted a trip to the Magical Kingdom by the Make-A-Wish program of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia.

Watching Disney videos at home prepared her for the trip.

“Mia’s been a lot of fun, and she’s very intelligent” said her mother, Mary Vogel. “After raising two boys, now we the drama.”

But 13-year-old Jacob and 10-year-old Logan have enthusiastically embraced their little sister.

“Getting them to attend a princess tea was not easy,” Mary said. “It’s been an adjustment for all of us, but the boys have been great.”

“They were so worried when Mia had to have surgery.

Lawrence County has been her home since December 2010 but many of those hours were spent in Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.


Mary, 39, is a social worker at Sharon Regional Hospital, where she’s worked for 11 years. Matt, 43 and a native of Beaver, owns and manages apartment buildings in New Castle.

They met at Lycoming College and moved to Lawrence County after their marriage.

Mary, who grew up in New Jersey, received a master’s degree at University of Pittsburgh.

Mia, who weighs 32 pounds, attends kindergarten and has a lot of friends there.

She may be petite, but her appetite is growing.

Before America, Mia never tasted chocolate.

She’s making up for lost time.

Cookies are her favorite. 

“She can eat anything and often does,” Mary said.

“Sometimes she just grazes all day long,” Mary said. “But like all kids, she takes it for granted.”

“She’s a full-fledged American kid,” said Matt.

The family will celebrate Mia’s sixth birthday in March, although the date is only an estimate.

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