Dunkin' Donuts server with cancer gets special show tickets from customers

Danielle Cleveland has touched so many people with her cheerful service at Dunkin’ Donuts in Milford that when she discovered she had breast cancer, some of her customers rallied around her to help keep the unwavering smile on her face.

Not only is Cleveland, 40, battling breast cancer, but so is her mother. They were both diagnosed within weeks of each other. That kind of heartache led customers Frank and Rena Gargiulo, owners of Bar 3 Thirty Three on the Boston Post Road, to make sure she had an invitation to a special acoustic show Tuesday, when James Arthur, a singer who won the British X-Factor, will perform at Bar 3 Thirty Three.

Natasha Tyner, another one of Cleveland’s customers at Dunkin’ Donuts on the Boston Post Road, was in on arranging the invitation to the show. She said Cleveland brings joy every day to her  customers, always smiling, and remembering how her customers take their coffee.

Cheerfulness seems to be a constant for Cleveland. She lives with her husband and children in Hamden, but used to live in Milford. She said she discovered the breast cancer one day because she scratched a mosquito bite and felt something that wasn’t quite right.

“The mosquito probably saved my life,” she said. “Who’d have thunk.”

She’s had surgery and now is undergoing her second round of chemotherapy.

Because she learned she is in a high risk pool for cancer, she also plans to have a bilateral mastectomy.

Just weeks after her own diagnosis, her mother, Michele, who lives in Fairfield, discovered she had the same type of breast cancer. She is also going through chemotherapy.

Facing so much, Danielle Cleveland is far from down in the dumps, and she’s still been working her shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I’ve been through worse,” she said. “And there are people going through so much more. I can’t complain.”

She has a great support system: Her children, Zachary, 21, and Autumn, 17, and husband Eric.

Not to mention friends and customers.

“Well, she makes me happy every day,” said Tyner, who says her own job is sometimes stressful, but getting that cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts from Cleveland always seems to lighten the load.

The Gargiulos felt the same way. “Frankie has a bit of a coffee addiction,” Rena said with a laugh, explaining how her husband came to know Cleveland.

When Frank heard about Cleveland’s cancer, he wanted to do something: His mother, Carmie, is a cancer survivor: She beat a 2014 ovarian cancer diagnosis and a 2015 breast cancer diagnosis.

Star 99.9 Radio and Michael's Jewelers is sponsoring the acoustic session with James Arthur, an exclusive closed event for Star 99.9 radio winners. Since the show is at Bar 3 Thirty Three, the Gargiulos had a number of invitations they could share.

By giving Cleveland a ticket to the show, Tyner said the couple is giving “her a night of inspiration, hope and magic with James Arthur.” Tyner is a big fan of the singer, and thinks it’s heartwarming that Cleveland will get a chance to attend the show.

James Arthur is a British singer and songwriter who won the ninth series of The X Factor in 2012, according to Wikipedia.

The online source says that his debut single “Impossible” was released by Syco Music after the final and went on to sell more than 1.3 million copies in the UK. He released another single that reached number two on the UK singles chart, and an album in 2013, according to Wikipedia.

After the release of his album, he was involved in a series of controversies: Simon Cowell’s record label Syco dropped him, but then he re-signed with Syco in 2016, Wikipedia reports.

“He’s big,” Tyner said, “and so locally this is a really big thing.”