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Leap year babies ready for overdue celebrations

Amanda Bennett leapt on the lawn outside her Merced home.

“It’s fun,” said the Merced College student. “I felt like I was five-years-old.”

In some ways she is turning 5 today.

So is certified nursing assistant John Michael Arredondo. “People just laugh at me when I say I’m turning 5,” he said. “Then I say ‘no really.’ ”

Bennett and Arredondo were born on Feb. 29 — the extra day added only in leap years. That means, according to the calendar, their birthdays come up once every four years. Which would kind of make Merced resident Vanessa Granados — who just got married in November — age 6 today.

“I love it,” laughed Granados, who is actually turning 24. “I think it’s something special.”

So does the online Society of Leap Year Day Babies. The chance of anyone being born on leap year day is about 1 in 1,461, according to its Web site. About 4 million people in the world and about 200,000 in the United States are leap year babies.

This is so few that Papa John’s Pizza believes it can afford to give away free pizzas nationwide to all of today’s birthday boys and girls. Unfortunately, the restaurant in Merced has closed, but go to www.papajohns.com to find other locations.

Bennett, who actually turns 19 today, plans to celebrate with her friends and family by eating sushi at Kings Asian Cuisine. “My birthday feels bigger this year,” she said. “I almost didn’t remember what it was like.”

That said, her frequently absent date of birth hasn’t been much of an issue. She and her family just celebrate on Feb. 28. “I’ve heard of people saying they only celebrate every four years — and I can’t believe that,” said Bennett’s mother, Carol. “Birthdays are special. But hers is more special.”

Her daughter was actually due on Feb. 12. But Bennett ended up joining her grandfather’s cousin and niece for a Feb. 29 birthday. “Three in one family, that’s unusual,” her mom said.

Granados’ parents throw her a special party every four years to honor her leap year age. Four years ago, when she “turned 5” her father threw the 20-year-old a Barbie doll party.

And today she will get a 6-year-old’s birthday party, said Stela Teran, her mother. Granados’ husband even plans to rent her a bounce house.

“It’s exciting,” Teran sighed. ”She thinks she has to be special every four years.”

Otherwise, they celebrate her birthday on March 1 with dinner at home. And sometimes she gets spoiled and celebrates her birthday on two days — Feb. 28 and March 1, her mom added.Arredondo, who turns 20 today, said his parents always observed his non-leap-year birthdays on March 1.

He first realized he was different on his eighth birthday when his uncle told him he was also turning age 2. “It didn’t make sense,” he laughed.No special celebrations are on Arredondo’s itinerary for today, he just wants to “hang out and be lazy.”

But Granados plans make today a child’s birthday to be remembered — which is a nice break from her busy routine of going to school, substitute teaching and managing a tanning salon.Impressive schedule for a 6 year old.

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