By Tim Saunders on
The young star – who played Young Nala on Broadway’s The Lion King for seven months – was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia in April, attracting the attention of celebrities who wanted to help. Both Rihanna and Alicia Keys urged their own fans to be tested to find a bone marrow match for Shannon and others who suffer from the disease. Keys even Skyped with Shannon while she was in hospital.
“(Tavarez) should be performing on Broadway, but is confined to her bed, fighting for her life,” said Rihanna in July. “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.”
The star tweeted her reaction on being told of the young actress’ death: “Way too soon…keep her family in your prayers.”
Shannon’s death highlights the need for bone marrow donors, especially for people of mixed ancestry. Bone marrow matches are difficult for many people like Shannon, whose mother is African-American and father is Hispanic. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, 83% of African-American patients fail at finding bone marrow matches after six months of searching.
“Shannon’s strength and her happy, positive spirit will live on in our hearts and minds each day,” said Shannon’s family. “Shannon’s dream was to perform on stage, and that she did. It is our hope that Shannon’s legacy will continue to inspire other brave children battling leukemia.”
To find out more about becoming a donor and saving children like Shannon, click here.
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