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Home Travel A cruise full of people born on leap day? ‘Leaplings’ mark their day.

A cruise full of people born on leap day? ‘Leaplings’ mark their day.

by Staff

Do people born on leap day age like mere mortals? Many will tell you no.

The patience it takes to wait four years between proper birthdays keeps them young.

“These are my people,” said Jason Bohn, who is on a birthday cruise in the Bahamas with about 70 other people born on Feb. 29. Bohn, who lives just outside Milwaukee, is turning 44 — or 11 in leap years.

Bohn found his fellow leaplings — as they often call themselves — on Facebook a handful of years ago. They bonded online and decided to plan a meetup for their birthdays.

They agreed on a cruise, which is how 78 leaplings ended up together on a four-night trip to the Bahamas in February 2020. They ranged in age from 4 to about 80 and came from 33 states and 10 countries.

“It was absolutely phenomenal,” Bohn said. “I had never met anyone that was born on a leap year until that cruise.”

It was so great, they did it again four years later.

A leap year comes every four years when February has an extra day, which is a correction because Earth takes a little bit longer than 365 days a year to orbit the sun.

About 5 million people across the world currently were born on a leap day. For many of them, Feb. 29 is a day to pull out the stops.

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Beth Oelkers will be partying in New York with other leaplings. It’s actually her 15th birthday and eighth wedding anniversary — if you don’t count all the years in between.

“We decided, for some odd reason, to also get married on February 29,” said Oelkers, 59, who was born Feb. 29, 1964, and got married on the same day in 1992.

“My husband’s favorite line to use when people ask him something unique about himself is that he married his wife on her seventh birthday, legally,” she said.

The couple, who live in Phoenix and have two grown children, will generally take an adventurous trip or have a big celebration on the day.

“Especially because it’s our anniversary, we do something really fun every year,” Oelkers said.

Myra Manley Walker has big plans for her birthday this year, too. She’s celebrating her Sweet 16, at age 64.

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“I am going out to dinner with a bunch of my friends and family,” said Manley Walker, who lives in Hillsboro, Ga. “When I actually turned 16, my mother made me go to the opera and I was so mad. This is going to be a good one; nobody is going to make me do what I don’t want to do.”

It will be a bittersweet birthday, though, as Manley Walker lost her oldest sister to cancer shortly before the last leap day. Her sister, Molly, was born Feb. 26, and on non-leap years, they would celebrate their birthdays together.

“She was everything,” Manley Walker said of her sister. “She always took care of me.”

Leap day is also important to another set of siblings — Harris, Elizabeth and Andrew Rowe.

They are spontaneous triplets — meaning they were conceived without fertility treatments — and their mother, Kelly Rowe, carried them to term (nearly all higher-order multiples are born premature).

They were born on leap day without medical intervention.

“That is just when they arrived,” said Kelly Rowe, who lives in Charleston, S.C.

A child didn’t have pajamas for pajama day. His bus driver bought him some.

The Rowe triplets are turning 20 this year, or 5 in leap years. When they were younger, “we’d celebrate three days in a row,” Rowe said, adding that each child would get a designated day. In leap years, though, they celebrate together on the 29th.

“They think it’s quite fun; they like being a little different,” Rowe said.

Judy Shaver Pickett and her daughter, Heather, have another familial leapling story. Shaver Pickett was born Feb. 29, 1952, in Lockport, N.Y. Exactly 23 years later — to the (leap) day — she gave birth to her first child.

“Being a leap year baby, and then having one, it was a big to-do,” said Shaver Pickett, adding that Heather’s birth was covered in the local paper and picked up by the Associated Press. “Everybody in the family wanted me to have her around my birthday.”

Shaver Pickett didn’t even think it was a possibility, as she didn’t realize it was a leap year until a few weeks before she delivered her daughter.

“She was born on my birthday, just a one-pound difference from what I weighed,” Shaver Pickett said. “Everybody was just thrilled.”

On non-leap years, mother and daughter celebrate together on the 28th. Sharing an unusual birthday, Shaver Pickett said, has bonded them. This year, Shaver Pickett — who lives in Wingate, N.C. — will visit her daughter in Wilmington, N.C., for a family birthday dinner.

As a leap year baby, Karen Korr uses her birthday as an occasion to do something positive for the world. It started eight years ago on her 40th birthday — for which she had a 10-year-old-themed birthday party. Instead of gifts, she collected toys for children in need.

“I decided that my birthday was a really good reason to raise money for kids,” said Korr, 47, a marketing consultant.

The first year, she also raised $14,000 for foster children in San Diego, through an organization called Voices for Children. Every leap year since, Korr has fundraised for similar causes.

“It’s an easy way to ask for a small donation that can go a long way,” she said, adding that she usually encourages people to match their donation with her leap age. For instance, when she turned “10,” many people donated $10.

This year, Korr is turning 12 and raising money for No Kid Hungry. Her plan for upcoming leap years is to recruit fellow leaplings to join her.

“I would like to work on getting more leap year babies involved,” she said, adding that she’s also hoping to have a second bat mitzvah next leap year, when she turns 13.

Ethel Bonder is long past her teen years, but she quips that she’s turning 23 — which is the same age as her granddaughter, Zoe.

In actuality, though, Bonder — who sells real estate in a small town just north of Pittsburgh — is nearly 92.

“I’m still here!” she said enthusiastically.

Growing up, Bonder was peeved about being born on Leap Day, she said. But as she got older, she came to appreciate her rare birthday, especially because she is now feted by her family.

They kissed on a school bus. Now, 77 years later, they’re reconnected.

“It’s a celebration,” said Bonder, adding that she is a hosting a party on Thursday.

Leap day this year is also a big deal for Mary Forsythe, who will mark her 25th birthday — which will actually be her 100th.

“I’ve always felt like I was young,” said Forsythe, who lives in Sand Springs, Okla. “I never felt like I was old, and I still don’t feel like I’m old.”

Forsythe was recently recognized by the Centenarians of Oklahoma — a nonprofit in Tulsa — and received an award from the city to commemorate her birthday.

Her two children — as well as her 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren — are throwing her a birthday bash on Thursday. Forsythe said she can hardly wait to ring in her 25th leap day.

“It feels very fabulous,” she said.

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