WHEN Luca Bays wakes up tomorrow he’ll be marking his birthday for only the fourth time.

That is because despite turning 16, Luca is one of a select breed of people, called leaplings, who were born on February 29.

The Gazette has caught up with Luca and his family on every one of his birthdays since he was born.

The odds of being a leapling is one in 1,461 - and Luca knows his birthday is very special.

He said: “It feels more special when someone asks you because you can explain.

“People are surprised when I tell them about it.

“A lot of people do not realise or understand you can only have a birthday every four years.

“I tell people I am three and then they always act surprised but then I explain the situation. It is a conversation starter.”

Luca, who lives in Boxted, was born at Colchester General Hospital in 2004.

He was due a week earlier but his mother, Emma went into labour on February 28 and welcomed Luca into the world a day later.

Technically he has two older sisters - Kiera, 18, and Lola, 13 - although he is really the middle child.

Sixteen years, but only four birthdays, after being born and Luca is entering one of the most important times of his life.

The Gilberd School pupil is preparing to take his GCSEs and is hoping to then move on to study construction skills at Colchester Institute.

Despite his tender years, at least according his birth certificate, Luca already has a Saturday job.

He works for John Coleman butchers on their Sudbury market stall.

Gazette: Luca behind the counter of the market stallLuca behind the counter of the market stall

Luca said: “I do some selling and stock replenishment.

“I really enjoy it and there is a great atmosphere on the market.

“After school I am going to get into the building trade but I am not sure what part.”

Emma added: “It will help him see if there is a specific field of interest for him then he will go from there.

“He is a real handy man around the house already.”

As well as his work and school studies Luca is embarking on an exciting challenge this year.

With the help of friends, family and local businesses he has raised £3,500 to pay for a trip to Swaziland.

There he’ll spend time trekking across the African nation, helping out in disadvantaged communities.

But first, there is the small matter of his birthday celebrations.

When your actual birthday only comes around every four years, they have to be special.

Emma said: “We celebrate every year on the first of March but it is a big deal this year as we can celebrate on his actual birthday.

“We have to make sure we make a really big effort for them because we can’t make up for it the year after.

“He wants to still go to work on the Saturday and then he is having a party in the evening.

“On the Sunday we’ve got a big family get together planned.”

She added: “If he says to someone he actually has a birthday this year they find it a bit strange.

“Sometimes people don’t get it straight away, but after a bit of explaining they get it.”