‘Leapers’ finally receive their opportunity for a celebration 

For most, being born on a particular day isn’t anything special, but those born Feb. 29 are often treated as curiosities or minor celebrities — or even the subjects of a seemingly lifelong practical joke.

In fact, being a leap day baby is a little like being born into a secret club. That’s one reason San Francisco resident Peter Brouwer launched LeapYearDay.com in 1997, a Web site where fellow "Leapers" can meet each other — and debate when to celebrate in the off years.

"I wanted to have a birthday club," said Brouwer, who’s turning "13" today. Growing up, he found that teachers "would express regret that you’re born on leap day, like ‘Oh, you don’t get a birthday this year.’"

However, regret is definitely a minority opinion. Shari Olds, a fire captain with Central County Fire, an agency that covers two Peninsula cities, said her mom "held out to make sure she had me on the 29th, because she thought it was so special."

Olds’ mom threw elaborate birthday parties every Feb. 29. Olds has continued that tradition as an adult: When she turned "10," she flew to Las Vegas with a cadre of family and friends to gamble and take advantage of the free birthday drinks.

For San Francisco resident Jon Caswell, who turns "6" today, this is his first leap year birthday since he turned 21.

"I’m going to celebrate the way any other 24-year-old would celebrate a birthday that comes only every four years," Caswell said. "I’ll have a nice dinner, and then I plan to walk into a bar and announce it. I might actually make a T-shirt."

In the off years, leap day babies sometimes have to suffer a few jokes, but getting to celebrate over two days, as many do, comes as some consolation.

"It’s kind of a joke in my family. They sing half the birthday song on Feb. 28 and the other half on March 1," said San Mateo High School sophomore Corrie Farbstein, who turns "4" today.

Certainly some leapers seem to enjoy their unique status and the opportunity to seem young their whole lives.

"I tell people I’ve done a lot in 10 years," including having three kids, said Half Moon Bay resident Julie Blankenhorn, whose "11th" birthday is today. "Most people don’t appreciate having an extra day in the year — but we do."

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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