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Leap babies discover secret to staying young

Who would have thought that two five-year-old girls would be psychology majors? These two five-year-olds live together off Grounds in a Preston Square apartment, and coincidentally have the same birthday. They are not twins - nor are they really five-year-olds. But today second-year College students Lee Saecker and Paige Townsend will celebrate their birthdays with only five candles atop each of their cakes. They're Leap Babies.

"I work in a daycare and the kids think it's the funniest thing that they're 'older' than me," Townsend said.

Born Feb. 29, 1980 in the midst of a blizzard that stretched from Saecker's birthplace in Salsberry, Maryland to Townsend's in Virginia Beach, the two leap babies landed together on the third floor of Emmet House last year.

"It was definitely the first kicker in the conversation," said Saecker. "Neither of us had ever met someone with our same birthday".

And for the first time ever this year, they are able to share their unique birthday with someone else.

"When I was little I loved it and hated it," Saecker said. "It was cool because it gave you a defining characteristic, but my friends never knew when to say 'Happy Birthday'."

When do they celebrate their birthday in the off years? Their driver's licenses state in bold red letters: UNDER 21 UNTIL 03-01-2001.

"Technically my birthday would come the day after, but I always celebrate it on the 28th. I have to stay true to the month if not the day," Saecker said.

"I celebrate whenever it's convenient, really. It's pretty arbitrary." Townsend said. "I guess since some years I don't actually have a birthday day, whenever I'm in a slump, I could claim it's my birthday."

Townsend said that her dad constantly tried to use her leap birthday to their advantage.

"I was around 12 years old when my family went to Disney World and my dad tried to get me in for the six and under price," Townsend said. "He was always trying to pull the leap day thing to get me kid's meals and discounts."

It wasn't long after the two met in the hallways of first-year dorms that they realized their birthday wasn't the only thing they had in common.

"We have a lot of the same thought patterns," Saecker said.

"My dad always says we're soul mates," Townsend said. "I don't know if I'd go that far ... "

" ... we just share so much," said Saecker, finishing Townsend's sentence.

Rattling off similarities in their personalities, such as their shared desire to work with children in the future, the two pause at the mention of their introspective natures.

"I constantly analyze myself and my interactions with others." Townsend began.

" ... people are always telling me to stop," Saecker finished.

These leap babies claim that Pisces, their zodiac sign, also espouses many of their common traits. Saecker even has a Pisces tattoo because it means so much to her.

"It might make me naïve, but I'd say I'm a skeptical believer," Townsend said.

Symbolized by two fishes, Pisces traditionally have a love for the water.

"My family sails," Townsend started. "And I grew up on the water."

"Go ahead and say it," Saecker encouraged. "And here in the mountains you miss that, right?"

The initial connection the two found by simply sharing the same birthday has developed into a life-long friendship, as the two claim to know everything about each other.

"One night I spilled my guts to Lee, all about family issues, stuff I'd never told anyone," Townsend said. "Later Lee left a note on my dresser telling me how much it meant that I had opened up to her like that. It's those little things that count."

And it's the little things that make people stand out.

"When you tell people you're a Leap Baby, they're always amazed and say, 'Oh! I've never met one before,'" Saecker said.

"I feel like people think it affects me more than it does," Townsend added.

But when leap year comes, it magnifies the excitement of what is usually just another day of the year.

"My 16th birthday was definitely the best. I'd gotten my braces off the day before, passed my driver's test ... 16 is a big one anyway, but to have it fall on a leap year was awesome," Saecker said.

So how does it feel to be one of the few, one of the rare Leap Babies?

"It's four times as fun!" Saecker said. "I stole that from a Hallmark card."

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