Shannon Tavarez, the 11-year-old who played Young Nala in Broadway’s “Lion King,” died Monday Nov. 1.
Shannon lost her six-month battle against leukemia. Doctors had a difficult time finding matching bone marrow to transplant because she was part African-American and part Hispanic.
Tavarez received a cord-blood transplant in August because a bone marrow match was not found.
According to DKMS Americas, of the 7 million Americans listed as potential donors, only 12 percent are minorities.
Shannon was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and had to put her performance on hold to begin chemotherapy. Her friends from school organized a drive at Minskoff Theater in Times Square in hopes of finding a bone marrow match.
More than 10,000 people from around the country, including 50 Cent, Rihanna and Alicia Keys, volunteered to be bone marrow donors in her name. A match was never found.
Shannon Tavarez death resonated with me. She seemed like a very brave and positive person in the face of adversity. She was positive in all of her interviews despite the unlikelihood of finding a match. According to the National Bone Marrow Program, only 7 percent, or about 550,000, are African-American. Only 3 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent Asian.
These numbers need to change. To help change these statistics I registered to be a donor through the National Marrow Donor Program. By registering I hope to influence others to do so. I want to help someone live by being a match.