In Demand: Three Sessions of Rec Department’s ‘Breakfast with Santa’ at Waveny Sell Out in One Hour

When the Recreation Department launched its “Breakfast with Santa” event in 2007, about 50 participating kids—for the price of a new, unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots program (more on that below)—in a single session, had breakfast with Mr. Claus himself and scored a photo with the big man. The event, a partnership for years with the Young Women’s League of New Canaan and now run by Rec with the support of generous sponsors, has grown so popular that this time around, three full sessions with 60 kids in each “sold out” (in truth, the event is free but requires advanced registration) in about one hour, Recreation Director Steve Benko said. “The kids, they just love it, and it’s great to have our sponsors on board,” Benko said of the event, which will run Saturday at Waveny House. This year’s sponsors are Lorenzo Colella of Joe’s Pizza and Mike Shullman of Russell Speeders (and Choose To Be Happy), Benko said. Among other perks for local Santa-seeking children, their contribution funds the purchase of goodie bags for the kids, including croissants, munchkins, cinnamon rolls and water.

‘Choose To Be Happy’: New Canaan Friends’ Business Poised for Larger Retail Market

“… honor, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves … but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that through them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general, for anything other than itself.” —from Book 1.7 of Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics,” translated by Sir David Ross

In one way, the rapid rise of the phrase “Choose To Be Happy”—the chord it strikes and, if retail experts are right, its potent marketability—should perhaps come as no surprise to New Canaan residents Matt Konspore and Mike Shullman. On a basic level, the longtime friends became its first adherents and converts—its first “customers.”

A chance remark uttered by a loved one in need nearly two years ago, those four words and the powerful, empowering message they carry took root for the men, and quickly became a kind of byword between Konspore and Shullman at a time when each, in his own way, had been searching for some inspiration. The friends began texting “Choose To Be Happy” to each other and then, on a lark, Konspore ordered up about 10 T-shirts with the phrase printed on the front, had his wife and kids don them and surprised Shullman at his home—one for every member of each family. Immediately, anyone who saw Konspore wearing the T-shirt—say, at Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee on Pine Street, a regular hangout—had a strong, positive reaction, he recalled.