Five years ago, Danielle Cannon was in prison for violating parole on a drug charge. She was also pregnant with her third child. She went to the hospital for her baby’s birth, but the next day Cannon was back in prison and her newborn daughter was in the care of Cannon’s aunt.
Cannon remained in prison for the next year and only saw her three children when her aunt, Barbara Dredden of Bridgeville, was able to make the drive to Wilmington, where Cannon was serving her sentence.
“I felt like I hit rock bottom,” Cannon said. “I couldn’t get myself together when I had my baby in prison. I knew if anything was going to change me, then this was it.”
Learning from mistakes
Danielle Cannon on paper and the woman telling her story are two entirely different pictures.
On paper, Cannon looks like a bad seed who got involved with the wrong type of people at a young age. In person, Cannon, now 28, is a strong woman who admits she made mistakes. Her new determination sparkles through her brown eyes, especially when she talks about the five children she has today.
Cannon got out of prison in 2007, and since then she has set out to make a better life for herself and her family. “I remember when I was in prison, I almost lost my mind not being able to be with my baby,” Cannon said. “I started focusing on the changes I needed to make. It helped me feel more positive. I told myself that when I get home, I’m going to take care of my kids; I’m going to get a job and stay positive. So far, I’ve done what I said I was going to do.”
After leaving prison, Cannon moved in with her aunt and uncle, Barbara and James Dredden, in Bridgeville. The couple cared for Cannon’s kids while she was in prison, along with Cannon’s grandma, Lizzie Cannon in Coverdale.
“I am so thankful for my family because they helped me when I was at the lowest spot,” Cannon said. “I couldn’t have turned my life around without them.”
While Cannon’s family helped with her kids, Cannon enrolled in school to become a nurse. “When I came home from prison and work release, my baby was 18 months, and I knew I missed so much,” said Cannon. “Now I have five kids - my oldest is 11, and she’s on the honor roll. I’m so proud of them.”
Cannon graduated as a certified nursing assistant and started looking for work. She quickly found her criminal background was a roadblock; healthcare organizations would not hire her.
In the meantime, she got a job at Arby’s, outside Lewes, to help support her family. By this time, she had moved into an apartment in Laurel with her children and was commuting to work in Lewes.
“The gas was costing so much,” Cannon said. “It had been four years, and I was still struggling.”
Cannon’s wages from Arby’s were just covering the gas costs to get there. She knew she had to find a way to use her degree and make more money for her family.
Glass half full
Cannon’s determination led her to the state parole board and to Gov. Jack Markell. She requested a pardon for her past misdeeds, so that she could make a better life for her family.
“I came home one night and there was a paper under my door saying to call (Lt. Gov.) Matt Denn,” Cannon recalls. “I called him, and he invited the whole family to the Martin Luther King banquet.”
The banquet was held Saturday, Jan. 15, and Cannon was there with her kids and Aunt Barbara. During Denn’s brief speech, he recalled Cannon’s determination to make her life more than it was when she went into prison.
“Danielle Cannon has overcome many obstacles, but she still cannot get a nursing job without a pardon from the governor,” Denn said. “Danielle, I’m here to tell you, Governor Markell has granted your pardon.”
Tears flowed down Cannon’s face during the banquet and as she retells the moment, her eyes sparkle again with the joy of knowing she now has a chance at achieving all her dreams.
Cannon now works two healthcare jobs in Sussex County, and she recently bought a minivan so she can drive all five kids – Dae’shjah, 11; Danasia, 6; Brenae, 5; Curtis, 18 months; and Cameron, 8 months - to school and home.
The family wakes up at 4:45 a.m. during the week to get the three younger kids to day care and the older ones to school. Then Cannon heads to Georgetown to work for Generations Healthcare, or she heads to Lewes to work for Harbor Healthcare. At the end of her day, she drives around and picks all the kids up to head home.
“When Matt Denn told my story and said I was pardoned … it changed my life right there,” Cannon said. “I’m working now and have achieved my goals, except one … Now I want to work on buying a house for my family.”
If her past has taught anything, it’s that Cannon will likely be living in her own home by this time next year.
“I send my thanks to the governor and Lt. Gov. Denn – they saved my life,” said Cannon. “It’s like I’m a whole different person and I really appreciate all their help. Now I can be a mom and take care of my kids. I’m really proud of myself and of my kids because they are all doing so well.”