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ND students observe leap year birthdays

Laura Vilim | Friday, February 27, 2004

For people born on Feb. 29, yearly birthday celebrations are far from an easy annual routine.

Notre Dame sophomores Kathryn Lindsey and Mike Doversberger are two such leap year babies. They will both be celebrating their 20th birthday (or 5th in Leap Years) this Feb. 29. Despite the unorthodox nature of their birthdays, however, they do not feel as though they have missed out on years of celebrations. They said they consider themselves lucky to be among the estimated one out of 1,506 people around the world – approximately 200,000 in the United States – who were born on such a special day.

Although Doversberger cannot recall the specific date when he realized his birthday was celebrated differently from his friends, he has been aware of the uniqueness of his leap year birthday for as long as he can remember. Rather than believing his birthday loses significance as because he can only celebrate it on its exact day once every four years, Doversberger thinks that it becomes more special because of its rareness.

“Unlike a typical yearly birthday, when I explain to people when I was born and how I go about celebrating my birthday, they remember it. As a result, I think it gains significance because it is unique,” he said.

Lindsey agreed with Doversberger, saying that leap year birthdays are more exciting to celebrate because they happen so infrequently. She first learned that her Feb. 29 birthday was special when she and her family celebrated her first “real” birthday when she turned four. Instead of being disappointed in what appeared to be a lack of actual birthdays, Lindsey found humor in her situation.

“I thought it was funny,” Lindsey said. “Of all the years, months, days and times to be born, I was born on a leap year. [It’s] the story of my life.”

In non-leap years, both Doversberger and Lindsey celebrate their birthday on March 1, as they were born on the 60th day of the year. While neither one has specific traditions for the day, each one celebrates with a little more fanfare when Feb. 29 rolls around every four years.

“Someone usually gives me a ‘you’re turning three, four or five years old’ card,” Lindsey said. “They also [jokingly] tell me I’m tall or smart for my age.”

Over the years, both students have also found other perks to being a birthday-celebrity of sorts. Doversberger has appeared in a local newspaper or on television every real birthday of his life and has received free $25 gift certificates from the University Park Mall in Mishawaka.

Although Lindsey has not received any special treatment as of late, when she was younger she often won extra prizes at fairs or in games. Recently, her birthday has been of more use to friends and family who have tried to utilize it to win free items of their own.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits Doversberger and Lindsey gained due to their leap year birthdays is the fact that it sets them apart from the multitude of other students at Notre Dame.

“[Another] great thing about being born on a leap year is that I will always be able to tell people I was a student at the University of Notre Dame before my fifth birthday,” said Doversberger.