Shannon TavarezJust 4 years ago, 10 year old Shannon Tavarez was a student at the Harlem School of the Arts. She was a very talented child. So much so, she auditioned for and landed the role of “Young Nala” in “The Lion King” on Broadway. She performed the role 4 times a week (she alternated the role with another young actress). She was having the time of her life acting, singing, and dancing 4 times a week.

In April 2010, she began to have pains in her lower back and legs. She even had a hard time walking. Shortly after that, she was diagnosed with leukemia which forced her to leave The Lion King. At 11 years old, she resided at Schneider’s Children Hospital while receiving daily chemotherapy treatment. Her only chance of survival: a bone marrow transplant. The donor pool is very big, but only about 10% of the donors are African American or Latinos. In other words, 17% of African American leukemia patients receive a transplant.

In August 2010, doctors gave her an umbilical cord transplant in hopes of saving her life. However, after a tough battle with leukemia, 11 year old Shannon lost her battle with leukemia on Novemeber 1, 2010. Her family released this statement:

“Shannon’s strength and her happy, positive spirit will live on in our hearts and minds each day. Shannon’s dream was to perform on stage, and that she did. We are grateful for the ongoing support from her Lion King family and the Broadway community. Shannon wanted to recruit people everywhere to “get swabbed” and help save the lives of those in need of a bone marrow transplant. In her memory, our family and friends will work tirelessly to carry out her wish through It is our hope that Shannon’s legacy will continue to inspire other brave children battling leukemia. We are grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers.”
-Odiney Brown (mother).


Get Swabbed

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