Shannon's SHARE and DKMS work to Address Disparities

It's National Minority Health Month (NMHM), which for DKMS and Shannon's Share means a time to raise awareness about health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minority populations and encourage action through health education. 

It's National Minority Health Month (NMHM), which for DKMS means a time to raise awareness about health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minority populations and encourage action through health education.

The mission of the Shannon's S.H.A.R.E. Foundation is right there in the name: Support, Hope, Aid, Recruit, Educate. They work to support patients and families struggling through blood cancer and blood diseases while providing hope through the seemingly impossible. But even before we get to the mission, we see the heart of the organization: Shannon.

11 year-old Shannon Skye Tavarez was starring as ‘young Nala’ in The Lion King on Broadway when she was suddenly diagnosed with AML Leukemia. Her doctors said that she needed a matching bone marrow donor to survive. Unfortunately, Shannon never found a match and passed away on All Saint's Day; November 1, 2010. They continue her legacy by registering donors and financially assisting patients diagnosed with blood cancers and other blood related illnesses.

The organization is run from the heart by Shannon's mother Odiney Brown and lifelong friend Nahdi Mukomana Brown. For them, growing the stem cell donor registry is personal. When Shannon was diagnosed, Odiney was faced with a brutal truth: Shannon's search would be incredibly difficult due to a lack of people of color registered on the national bone marrow registry. Patients are much more likely to find a genetic twin with a similar ethnic background, and Shannon was looking at impossible odds.

Thankfully, the family felt the support of the community around them - especially the Broadway community - and were able to register almost 10,000 new donors. But this task wasn't easy. "A lot of people are misinformed about bone marrow donations," Deputy Executive Director Nahdi acknowledges, "And within communities of color, there is a lack of information and a lack of outreach.”

To help the mission of Shannon's S.H.A.R.E. and to support these underrepresented communities, there are two things you can do today:

1) Register to Become a Stem Cell Donor

When a patient’s doctor starts the search for a matching bone marrow donor, they will generally look at 10 specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) markers to determine a match. When it comes to matching HLA types, a patient’s ethnic background is important in predicting the likelihood of finding a match. This is because HLA markers used in matching are inherited. Some ethnic groups have more complex tissue types than others. So a person’s best chance of finding a donor may be with someone of the same ethnic background.

With DKMS and Shannon's S.H.A.R.E., you can register today to become a bone marrow donor here.

2) Spread Awareness

DKMS is an international nonprofit dedicated to helping patients find their lifesaving bone marrow donor to treat their blood cancer or disorder. The more people who know about the demand for bone marrow and blood stem cell donors, the better the chances are for the patients who need them.

Shannon's S.H.A.R.E. is dedicated to the education and recruitment of potential bone marrow donors, especially in communities of color where the need is greatest. Find several ways to support their mission here.

“We can only help each other," Nahdi concludes, "It takes a village and I consider us to be that village. We want people to know that we're here for the patients, but also here to reach donors of color. We want to make sure they realize the impact they can have on critically ill patients suffering from blood diseases and blood cancer."

More ways to help
You can support DKMS in many ways and give hope to more blood cancer and blood disorder patients.