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How do leap day kids really feel about their unusual birthday? We found out

In World
March 01, 2024

Your chance of being born on leap day is less than 0.1%, yet when the TODAY show put out a call for leapers (people who were born on Feb. 29), we received over 1,000 responses … and 23 leapers traveled to Studio 1A today.

Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Craig Melvin spoke with a few of the birthday folks on the show, and TODAY.com chatted with some of the youngest (and young at heart) leapers backstage to find out what they really think about being born on a day that occurs only once every four years.

Giada Catanzaro, age 16 (age in leap years: 4)

Hailing from Bridgewater, New Jersey, Giada Catanzaro celebrates her birthday in a big way.

“I normally celebrate on the 28th, but on years with the 29th I go out and do something big usually,” she says. “I went to Disney for my first, Kalahari (an indoor water park) for my second, and I went to a UNC lacrosse game for my third birthday and now I’m here today.”

TODAY team with all the leap day birthdays. (Nathan Congleton / TODAY)

TODAY team with all the leap day birthdays. (Nathan Congleton / TODAY)

Giada traveled to 30 Rock with her mom, Danielle Catanzaro, who says that having a leap day baby was completely unexpected because her actual due date was April 4.

“I was in complete shock,” Danielle says. “So I don’t even think I realized what day it was driving to the hospital. When I was finally at the hospital, it kind of all sunk in. And it was when my dad called me and he says, ‘Danielle, do you know that there’s less than 200,000 people in the country with this birthday?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh! Wait! It’s leap day!'”

Noah Lewis, age 8 (age in leap years: 2)

Noah Lewis and his mom, Kristin Mendez, traveled all the way from Texas to be a part of TODAY’s leap day birthday celebration. Like all the children in this morning’s segment, Lewis seemed slightly amazed by all the attention.

“We’re going to go to Central Park and ice skate, and then we’re going to go to a Broadway show,” Mendez shares. Additional family members came along on the trip to really make it a birthday to remember.

Emma Tesser, age 12 (age in leap years: 3)

Emma Tesser from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey was floored when Savannah and TODAY made her birthday wish come true by gifting her a trip to Universal Studios. What is this 12-year-old most looking forward to? “All the rides,” she says backstage.

Emma Tesser has big plans for her 12th year. (Nathan Congleton / TODAY)

Emma Tesser has big plans for her 12th year. (Nathan Congleton / TODAY)

“My due date was actually February 29th,” Emma’s mother, Jodi Tesser, shares, “and I was really worried about it because I didn’t want her to feel like she was going to see a calendar and not have her birthday on it. But it turned out to be such a special and amazing thing.”

The Tessers try to make Emma’s “real” birthdays exciting. For her first two leap year birthdays, the family went to Disney World. But since she’ll celebrate her bat mitzvah this year, they weren’t necessarily going to plan a big trip.

“When we got this call about being on TODAY, I thought that now we have something incredibly special to do for her third leap day birthday,” Jodi says. “And now, Universal! We are blown away and so, so thankful. That was beyond generous.”

Sadie Oldenborg, age 8 (age in leap years: 2)

Sadie Oldenborg and her parents, Ron and Katie, live in Port Jefferson, New York. Sadie was excited by all of the attention, and her parents were thrilled to give their daughter this experience.

Sadie Oldenborg, 8, is celebrating her second leap day birthday. (Nathan Congleton / TODAY)

Sadie Oldenborg, 8, is celebrating her second leap day birthday. (Nathan Congleton / TODAY)

Katie says she was “excited” to have a leap day baby “because it’s something different and unique. And not many kids can say they are born on the leap year.”

Sadie celebrated her “1st” birthday — at the age of 4 — with a simple family party. But now that she knows that 2024 has her “real” birthday, her mom says, she wants to bump the celebration up to the next level. Sadie had a roller skating party with her friends last weekend, and after the broadcast, her parents were going to take her to the American Girl store.

On off-years, Ron and Katie celebrate Sadie’s birthday on Feb. 28 for a very specific reason. “We have a daughter that’s born in March,” Ron says. “They each get their own months.”

Debra Smith O’Neal, age 72 (age in leap years: 18)

Together with her two daughters and her granddaughter, Debra Smith O’Neal drove to Manhattan from Newport News, Virginia. But it wasn’t her first visit to Studio 1A.

“When I turned ‘sweet 16,’ I came here,” O’Neil says, referring to her birthday eight years ago. “We came in and did a segment with Carson Daly. I’ve been watching TODAY since I was a little girl.”

A teacher for 35 years, O’Neal says that she when she sees her former students, they might not remember her name, but they always remember her birthday.

O’Neal’s advice to all the children celebrating leap day birthdays: “Just enjoy it because it always makes you special.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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