Ben Stumpf – Leap Day

by Doug Rapp

The odds are 1 in 1,461 that you’ll be born on Leap Day, Feb. 29.

2020 is a leap year, with an extra day tacked on the calendar every four years to keep the seasons lined up with the 365-and-a-quarter days it takes for the earth to orbit the sun. 

Whether they’re called Leaplings, Leapers or 29ers, many Chicagoans said they enjoy having a unique birthday even if it doesn’t come every year. 

Ben Stumpf, who works in the West Loop, is a doubly special Leap Day baby since he has a twin brother, Brad. 

“We have been featured on the news a few times (since) it makes us something like 1 in 4 million,” Stumpf said, referencing the odds of twins being born on Leap Day. 

The Old Town resident said he loves being a Leap Year baby. 

“It enables me to have the easiest ice breaker out there and makes for a good excuse to have a large bash every four years,” Stumpf said.

On off years, he said he celebrates on both Feb. 28 and March 1, but he goes big on Leap Years.

“I rent a party bus in Cleveland, where I grew up, and visit different hot dog establishments with 50 of my closest friends (and) hot dog enthusiasts each year,” Stumpf said. “This year will be the biggest as we are attempting to piggy-back our birthday with the crawl.”

Patrick Foys, of Carol Stream, said he had a vague notion his birthday was special but didn’t fully understand the concept until he was 10 years old.

Foys said his parents usually celebrated his birthday on Feb. 28 while he was growing up but he didn’t enjoy non-Leap Year birthdays, instead celebrated special ages.

Having a Leap Day birthday doesn’t cause many problems, Foys said, although he occasionally comes across a form that doesn’t accept Feb. 29 as a date.

“Also, I recall that after Y2K in 2000, there was a mini-Y2K on Feb. 29, 2000 that most people didn’t know about,” he added. 

Carolyn Young of Evanston was born on Leap Day 1984. Like Foys, she became aware of the uniqueness of her birthday when she was 8 years old, her second Leap Day. However, she didn’t enjoy it at first.

“I didn’t understand it,” Young said. “Other kids also asked a lot of questions and it got annoying to try to keep explaining it.” 

As more birthdays passed, she grew to appreciate her Leap Day birthday, even if some of her family and friends’ phones and computers don’t have a Feb. 29 to plug in birthday reminders.

“But as I got older I really liked it—it made me unique,” Young said. “It’s perfect for places where you are asked to share something special about yourself—always an easy one. It is also fun when making appointments and such and they ask your birthday—there is often a pause and then an ‘oh cool.’”

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