By Emma Hong on
Shannon Talvarez, an eleven-year old girl who played Young Nala on Broadway’s “The Lion King” musical for seven months, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in April. A bone marrow transplant is vital for her survival, but the young girl from New York City has been having trouble finding a genetic match, due to her mixed heritage. Her mother is African-American, while her father is Hispanic; both of these racial groups are the most underrepresented in bone marrow registries.
Many have come together to support Talvarez’s fight against cancer, including R&B singers Alicia Keys and Rihanna. They are encouraging their fans to get tested to see if they could be a match for Talvarez, and others who are suffering from this disease. She needs all the help she can get, before it is too late.
Rihanna told People.com, “(Tavarez) should be performing on Broadway, but is confined to her bed, fighting for her life. She needs to find a bone marrow donor to survive. I urge all my fans to register (as donors). It’s the most beautiful thing someone could do, to give the gift of life.”
On July 18th, there was a bone marrow drive for her to find her genetic match. Around 400 people came to get a simple Q-tip swab test to check if they were a correct match and to register as bone marrow donors. Family members have made t-shirts with the slogan “Swab for Shannon.” There will be another drive for donors on July 23rd at the Broadway location of “The Lion King.” You can even register online to help at www.getswabbed.org to get a donor kit delivered for free.
Although Talvarez has to go through chemotherapy every day until she can receive a bone marrow transplant, she stays in high spirits. She finished fifth grade while undergoing chemotherapy, sings songs like “Superman” by Alicia Keys and “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid to the nurses, and was recently paid a visit from Alicia Keys. Talvarez told the Daily News, “I want people to know that attending the drive is going to save my life.”
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