NEW YORK (AP) — Shannon Tavarez, the 11-year-old who starred on Broadway in The Lion King and whose battle with leukemia won the hearts of many, including Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent, has died.
Shannon died Monday afternoon at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, on Long Island, of acute myelogenous leukemia, a common type of leukemia among adults, but rare among children.
“She was a remarkable and talented young lady who touched the lives of those she entertained, as well as those who cared for her over the past several months,” the medical center said Tuesday in a statement.
Shannon, who played the young lion Nala, received an umbilical-cord blood transplant in August. The procedure was performed as an alternative to a bone marrow transplant. Her doctor, Larry Wolfe, said that a perfect bone marrow match for her could not be found.
The search for a match was especially daunting because Shannon's mother is African American and her father is Hispanic, from the Dominican Republic. For bone marrow transplants, minorities and those of mixed ancestry have a more difficult time finding good matches because there aren't as many people from those groups signed up as potential donors.
Right now, 83 percent of African-American patients who need marrow transplants don't find matches after six months of searching, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping patients receive transplants.
On her website, which includes a photo of Shannon as Nala and a video of her singing The Circle of Life, the 78-pound actress said, “Some people think that the test for compatibility is scary! … All it really takes to get started is a cotton swab of the inside of your cheek.
“So please get tested today. Who knows? You might be my match. Or, you may be able to help other young people with similar illnesses. And remember… ‘One swab will do the job’.”
ON THE NET
DKMS donor registry: http://www.getswabbed.org
Shannon Tavarez: http://matchshannon.com