11-yr-old ‘Lion King’ actress, Shannon Tavarez, loses battle with leukemia

Shannon Tavarez.

Shannon Tavarez, who starred in the Broadway stage production of “The Lion King” has passed away after a long cancer fight.

11-year-old Tavarez, who, up until her leukemia forced her to quit the production in April of this year, played the younger version of Nala, the childhood pal and girlfriend of Simba in the Tony Award-winning stage play, beat out hundreds of other hopefuls when she earned the role last year.

An aggressive effort was launched earlier this year to try to find bone marrow donor, but in August, after a matching donor had not been fund, doctors preformed an umbilical-cord blood transplant in hopes that it would be a viable replacement for the bone marrow.

The search for a matching bone marrow donor was made difficult by Tavarez’ heritage (mother is African-American and her father is Hispanic). Minorities and those of mixed ancestry have a harder time finding good matches because there aren’t as many people from those groups signed up as potential donors.

Tavarez died on Monday afternoon (Nov. 1) at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, on Long Island, said Katharina Harf, co-founder of the bone marrow donor center DKMS, who led the search for a matching donor.

“It’s rare that you meet such a spirited girl at such a young age,” Harf said. “She touched so many people to register. She was really, really a special girl.”

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