Ottawa

Ottawa leap year babies get to finally blow out some candles

Aylmer's Erin Cleiman is celebrating his ninth birthday at 36 years old and after more than 60 years, Ottawa's Scott Troyer finally gets to celebrate his sweet 16.

Having a birthday every 4 years poses some practical challenges

Erin Cleiman poses with balloons for her "eighth" birthday in 2016. (submitted by Erin Cleiman)

After more than 60 years, Ottawa's Scott Troyer finally gets to celebrate his sweet 16 Saturday. Like all leap year babies, his real birthday on Feb. 29 only happens every four years.

"I never really wanted a cake in between, the three years," the 64-year-old said. "It's not my birthday."

Troyer, a former CBC camera operator, often celebrated his special birthday on shoots for the public broadcaster. One particularly memorable year, Troyer covered Pierre Trudeau's retirement on Feb. 29, 1984.

Aylmer's Erin Cleiman is also ready for a big celebration Saturday. 

"I love my birthday because it is rare and it only comes once every four years. It's just something that separates me from everyone else," she said. 

Erin Cleiman celebrates her first birthday at age four with her dad, Allan Cleiman, and brother, Daniel Cleiman, in 1988. (submitted by Erin Cleiman)

As a kid Cleiman's family would celebrate her birthday on Feb. 28 on the three off years. But as she got older, she started celebrating her birthday twice.

"I'll celebrate on the 28th and [March] first because, why not?"

She goes extra big when she can celebrate the real day on Feb. 29. This year she celebrates turning nine at Mandarin and then heads to Ottawa Smash, a business that allows customers to take a baseball bat to objects and break stuff.

Cleiman figures it's a fitting birthday for a kid.

"You know, nine-year-olds or eight-year-olds, what do they do for their birthdays? They go to Laser Quest or do some kind of fun outing," the 36-year-old said.

Practical downsides to a rare birthday

While both Troyer and Cleiman say the rarity of their birthdays always made them feel special, it has caused the odd run-in with businesses and government offices.

People don't always understand how to process a date of birth that doesn't exist every year.

Cleiman says she was denied alcohol at the LCBO when she turned 19. She had to wait an extra day, until March 1, to get her first brown paper bag.

Sometimes when she's entered her birthday on an online form, some websites didn't even offer the 29th as a selection option for February, she said. 

Scott Troyer celebrates his third birthday. On Saturday the 64-year-old turns 16. (submitted by Scott Troyer)

Troyer says banks and even the passport office have tried to put his birthday down wrong.

"It was annoying. Everything official wanted to make my birthday March 1 because Feb. 29 didn't exist for three out of every four years," he said.

"It was always an argument."

Troyer often finds himself having to explain — even defend — his birthday is a real date. 

"That's the day I was born so that's the birthdate you should show for me," he remembers telling others.

Cleiman plans to celebrate his sweet 16 fittingly, with old high school friends on Saturday. 

Ottawa leap year baby, Scott Troyer, celebrates his "sweet 16" on Saturday. (supplied by Rose Simpson)

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