Eleven-year-old Shannon Tavarez, who starred in the Broadway musical "The...

Eleven-year-old Shannon Tavarez, who starred in the Broadway musical "The Lion King" and suffers with leukemia, talks about her acting experiences at her home in the Bellrose section of Queens, New York. Tavarez had just returned from a bone marrow aspirate, a 3-part procedure which follows each round of chemotherapy. (July 16, 2010) Credit: AP

Shannon Tavarez, only 11 years old, has a voice so powerful she matches any of the adults who have shared the stage with her in the Broadway production of "The Lion King."

Since April, Shannon hasn't gone near the stage nor sung her signature song, "The Circle of Life." She has been in and out of Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, battling an aggressive cancer - acute myelogenous leukemia, AML. She goes back to the hospital Monday for more chemotherapy.

But on Sunday, Shannon will share a different kind of spotlight. She and Penny Lindenberg, a young mom of two from Ridge, will be the focus of a bone marrow drive in Port Jefferson. Lindenberg also has AML, diagnosed a year ago, but has yet to find a match.

The drive is being held between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church, 110 Myrtle Ave.

The dual drive was the brainchild of college student Nicole Parisi of Mount Sinai. Parisi said she was inspired to help people with leukemia after reading stories in Newsday. This summer she's interning at DKMS Americas, a bone marrow registry in Manhattan.

"When I read those stories on the front page of Newsday about the cute little girl Julianna, I knew I wanted to help," Parisi said, referring to 7-year-old Julianna Buttner of Farmingville who received a bone marrow transplant earlier this year from her twin. Parisi was among the hundreds of volunteers who donated bone marrow for Julianna last year.

The Lion King cast held their own small drive Friday in Manhattan for Shannon, who plays the role of Nala. Her mom, Odiney Brown of Queens, said her daughter's illness began with what seemed to be the flu. "The first round of chemotherapy knocked out 75 percent of the cancer cells," Brown said. "but because of the kind of cancer she has a bone marrow transplant is inevitable."

She calls her daughter's voice a gift: "It gives you goose bumps to hear her. The first time I heard her she just blew me away."

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