By Juli McDonald

WESTFORD (CBS) – It’s that nightmare word no parent wants hear, never mind diagnose on their own. Tara Forrest works in health care; and she knows her daughter Ali.

“It was probably the next night I was looking at her on the couch and it hit me. I was like, ‘My kid has cancer. I know it,’” Forrest said.

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Acute myeloid leukemia. It’s rare. And the problem is, so are Hispanic bone marrow donors.

“Hispanics are pretty low on the list. African Americans, Asians, they are really underrepresented in the registry,” she explained.

Ali’s dear friends and supportive Westford community will be swabbed for the lifesaving Be the Match registry this weekend. They hope many others will join them – you can register for a kit online. Even in her own fight, Ali wants more potential matches for everyone in need.

“There are so many people who come through here. I didn’t know this is how it was; Kids all ages. Two-year-olds are here. I feel so bad and I want to help them as much as I can,” Ali Pantoja said.

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Tara and Ali (WBZ-TV)

Still achieving high honors in remote school and worried about other kids down the hall. It’s who Ali is.

“She’s driven and she’s bright and she’s strong and she’s fought so hard. I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Tara added.

The drive-thru Be The Match event will be held at Abbot Elementary School in Westford on Saturday, March 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CLICK HERE follow more of Ali’s story or donate to her family, visit

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You can learn more about the registry and how to potentially save someone’s life at

Juli McDonald