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Young star of 'Lion King' dies of leukemia



The 11-year-old Queens girl, who starred in Broadway’s “The Lion King” and whose public and brave battle with leukemia grabbed the attention of stars such as 50 Cent, Alicia Keys and Rihanna, has died, according to published reports Tuesday.

Shannon Tavarez, who played Young Nala in the Tony Award-winning show, succumbed to the disease Monday at a Long Island hospital despite having received an umbilical cord transplant in August.

Her story inspired more than 10,000 people nationwide to sign up with bone-marrow donation center DKMS to be tested as a match for a transplant, but no match was found, leading doctors to perform the alternative treatment.

“She was an inspiration to us,” said Katharina Harf, executive vice president of DKMS. “We want to keep her spirit alive by continuing to get people to help save other lives.”

Shannon was diagnosed last spring. She debuted on Broadway in September 2009 and played four of eight shows a week until her disease forced her to quit last April.

Her family couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.


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