Alumna Asks University To "Save A Life" in Daughter's Memory

WASHINGTON (Nov. 16) -- Howard Alumna Odiney Brown is determined to make sure her daughter, Shannon, did not die in vain. 

At age 11, Shannon Tavarez seemed to have everything.  She was young and attractive with doting parents, and best of all, Shannon nightly performed the role of the Young Nala the lion club in the award-winning play “The Lion King” on Broadway.

But six months into the play, Shannon, who had beat out hundreds of other girls for the role in her first ever audition, was diagnosed with deadly acute myelogenous leukemia.  To survive, she needed a bone marrow transplant.

Her call for help inspired the public and celebrities. At least 10,000 people registered as bone marrow donors because of it.  Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent took up her cause.

But in the end, she did not find a match.  She died Nov. 2 in Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park on Long Island, N.Y.

Shannon’s mother doesn’t want what happened to her daughter to happen to another child or adult.  So, she is asking the Howard University community to “Save a Life in Shannon’s Honor.”   

Brown and her best friend, Nahdi Mukomana, also a Howard graduate, are returning to their alma mater for a bone marrow drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Howard University College of Medicine so thousands of others waiting for bone marrow transplants have a chance.

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.

All donors have to do Thursday is have their cheek swabbed.  There are no needles, no blood.  Brown is urging Howard students, staff, faculty, alumni and the Washington-area community to come by the College of Medicine at 520 W Street NW to have their cheek swabbed to become registered donors.

“Shannon wanted to recruit people everywhere to ‘get swabbed’ and help save the lives of those in need of a bone marrow transplant,” her mother said.  “In her memory, our family and friends will work tirelessly to carry out her wish. It is our hope that Shannon’s legacy will continue to inspire other brave children battling leukemia.

Brown said each donor is an opportunity to save the life of another person suffering with a blood-based disease.

 “Shannon’s strength and her happy, positive spirit will live on in our hearts and minds each day,” she said.  

See Shannon Tavarez Talk About her Disease

See 50 Cent Get Swabbed to Become a Bone Marrow Donor

See More About the Need for African-American Bone Marrow Donors

More on Shannon Tavarez Struggle and the Need for Donoros


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