"The officer gave up and told me it was my lucky day," Gibbons said.

Most leaplings prefer to celebrate in February, their birthday month, and are used to the playful teasing that surrounds them. McSorley remembered his 16th, or 4th, birthday when friends gave him a box of toy trucks.

"I don't worry about age much," he said, adding it's a guy thing. "Women put much more emphasis on age than guys do."

Fellow McDaniel student Hollie Cunningham, who is not related to the Crofton Cunninghams, said her parents will likely arrive from Washington today with a pinata, imprinted with a bold "5," and birthday cards written for a 5-year-old.

"My birthday can be a great conversation starter," she said. "I tell people that I age with every presidential election year."

For Erin and Janet Cunningham, Feb. 29 is always a double celebration. Janet made the news as Baltimore's first leapling baby of 1960, born at what was then South Baltimore General Hospital. She gave birth to Erin in the same hospital, now known as MedStar Harbor Hospital, on Feb. 29, 1988, but competed with another mother for the top news spot that day, she said.

"There was a leapling giraffe born on the same day at the zoo," she said. "There was a bit of competition for the news story, and for a while, we weren't sure which mother would be in the paper."

They still celebrate every year late in their birthday month, but every fourth year, the mother and daughter organize a grander celebration. They are going to the Kennedy Center this weekend with several other family members and then out on the town in Washington.

"Why wouldn't we celebrate?" said Erin. "We are never going to get old."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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