Catonsville resident can celebrate her real birthday Feb. 29

As a youngster, Beverley Donald would carefully search calendars for her birthday.

Most years, it was nowhere to be found.

Born on Leap Day in 1948, the Catonsville resident recalled feeling as if her mother missed her real birthday when they celebrated on March 1.

Relatives didn't help. They would jokingly telling her she only gets presents every four years.

But over the past 64 years, Donald has grown to love being born on Feb. 29.

She especially relishes this year's event.

"I'm going to have a Sweet 16 birthday all over again," she said with excitement and a slight chuckle.

Since Donald already has her driver's license, she won't rush to the MVA like many who celebrate a 16th birthday.

She and a group of friends, none of whom were born on Feb. 29, will take a cruise on the Chesapeake Bay.

Other than her confusion about her birthday as a child, Donald said she has never had complications from having a Leap Day birthday. In fact, the day has brought her some celebrity.

Four years ago, when she lived inWashington, D.C., she appeared on"The Martha Stewart Show"with two other D.C.-area residents who shared her Leap Day birthday.

Donald said she often meets people amazed by the date of her birthday.

"It's so much fun, whenever I have to present my ID," Donald said. "Everyone, of course, notices and the general consensus is, 'I've never met anyone born on that day.' "

The odds of being born on Leap Day are about one in 1,500.

Donald said her great-nephew, Bryce "B.J." May, will celebrate his first Leap Day birthday this year at his home in Dallas.

Donald likes sharing her birthday with others and formed Leap Year Folks to meet others in the area, she said.

The club meets once every four years for a luncheon. This year's luncheon had not been scheduled as of Feb. 24, Donald said, but it would likely occur sometime this week.

"I'm hoping every day to get more participants," Donald said a week before her birthday. "Beside the leap year, we don't really do anything."

She tracks people down by asking the staff at the Catonsville Y, for example, to be on the lookout for those who give Feb. 29 as a birth date and give them her contact information.

She recently found a potential club member purely by chance.

She had gone into the Giant grocery store at Baltimore National Pike and Rolling Road on Feb. 23 to purchase birthday balloons when an employee spoke with her, Donald said, and learned about her birthday.

The employee then escorted her over to Gwendolyn Hamlett, a soon to be 56-year-old leaper who works in the store's bakery.

"It was kind of wild," said Hamlett, who lives in the city.

The chance meeting doubled the number of people Hamlett has met who share her birthday.

The other person Hamlett knows with a Leap Day birthday is one of the store's cashiers.

Hamlett said she likely wouldn't be able to attend the Leap Year Folks luncheon because of her work schedule and a birthday trip planned to Virginia.

Each leap year since 1988, Donald said she has spent part of her birthday at a local hospital welcoming babies born on Feb. 29 with a gift bag filled with "little, fun baby things."

She started the tradition in Dallas, continued it inWashington, D.C., and hopes to continue it at St. Agnes Hospital, said Donald, who moved to Catonsville three years ago.

"It's just for fanfare for the newborn babies and moms," she said. "We're really not allowed to stay very long, just to say hello and welcome and congratulations."

The last time there was a Leap Day, in 2008, there were four babies born at St. Agnes Hospital, two boys and two girls, according to a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Donald sympathizes with the confusion those children and others will have as they grow up.

"I remember having to explain a lot as a youngster to others," she said. "But my mother always made sure I had a birthday cake and the presence of a birthday was there."

So will Donald celebrate her birthday on Feb. 28 or March 1 next year?

"Both days!" she responded.

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