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Country ‘twusins:' Shelby County girls celebrate 16th birthday after being born to sisters’

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By Beth Herrinton-Hodge

Sarah Raizor and Chelsea Ashbaugh have a word for their kinship – “twusins!”

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They hold a unique gift of being born on the same day – Aug. 25, 1996 – to a pair of sisters. Moms Tammy Raizor and Julie Ashbaugh delivered their daughters four hours apart, in two different hospitals, 16 years ago. They arrived measuring 7 pounds each, and both were 20 inches long.

Their dual birth was front-page news in The Sentinel-News,and the cousins, both students at Shelby County High School, have grown up sharing a special day.

On Saturday the girls will mark their Sweet Sixteen birthday with a party at Sarah’s house. Chelsea will be there, as will their extended family. “When we mark their birthdays, we celebrate big!” Tammy Raizor said.

Sarah and her mom have been busy shopping, cleaning and preparing the party site. “I’m looking forward to gathering with my friends, to laughing and having a good time,” she said.

Last weekend, the Ashbaughs took their children and Sarah to Lake Cumberland to mark the girls’ birthday. “I’m so grateful that we had that weekend with Sarah,” Chelsea Ashbaugh said. “She’s such a great girl, fun and funny. She had us laughing all weekend! It was a great time for the girls to be together.”

“When we were little, we shared our birthday parties, until we turned 13. Then we started having our own  gatherings. But we always had our own cakes. I liked Scooby-Doo. Chelsea liked Sponge Bob. Our cakes showed that. We never had to share our birthday cakes.”

The two girls grew up attending different schools and are in different grades and even for a while lived in different states when the Ashbaughs were in California. Sarah also had health problems when she was a toddler, but their “twusin-ship” has endured all of that.

With birthdays in late August, their families had the choice of starting the girls when they were 5 years old, because they would turn 6 within a month of beginning the school year. Sarah began kindergarten at Heritage Elementary when she was five.

Chelsea started at Wright Elementary a year later, which allowed the girls to develop their own circles of friends, and their two personalities couldn’t be more different.

 “I grew up on a farm,” Sarah said. “I’m outside all the time, helping my dad and grandfather with chores. Chelsea’s a city girl. She doesn’t care much for farm work.”

Said Chelsea: “I’m a little more reserved than my cousin. I have fun when I spend time with her, but we’re very different. I remember growing up playing at her house, jumping on the trampoline, and climbing on the playground.”

Now the girls enjoy riding their four-wheelers together on Chelsea’s family’s farm.

Even attending separate schools, the two girls grew up almost side-by-side.

“As sisters, we’ve always been close,” Julie Ashbaugh said. “Whenever Tammy and I would get together, we’d have the girls with us.”

Said Tammy: “Sarah was my first-born. “My big-sis, Julie, had already had two children before Chelsea came along. I liked having an older sister to turn to for advice and support in raising my daughters. This has been a special bond for the two of us.”

When their babies were very young, their mothers would dress them as twins. Every three months, they took the girls to local photographer, Jessica Vogel, to capture their first years of life. In many of the photos, the girls look so much alike. Yet even today, Chelsea and Sarah are mistaken for sisters.

The two girls finally landed in the same school at East Middle.

“When they came together at East, they brought two circles of friends,” Ashbaugh said. “This opened up new relationships for both girls, as they introduced their school friends to one another.

“It eased the transition to middle school, as both girls knew they’d meet a familiar face among their new surroundings.”

SCHS has more students than East Middle, and there are quite a few people there who don’t know that the girls are cousins. Classmates often ask, “Do you know Chelsea?” or “Do you know Sarah” “You two look just alike!”

It makes both girls smile.

One event that brings together the cousins and their extended families each year is the WHAS Crusade for Children. Sarah’s parents, Tammy and Brian, are both firefighters, and Brian Raizor is the chief of the East 60 Fire Department.

“When the Crusade comes around each year, the whole family gets involved,” Tammy Raizor said. “We walk door-to-door and stand by the roadside collecting donations in our boots.

“Sarah had open-heart surgery when she was four years old. The folks at Kosair were wonderful. Having that surgery made Sarah’s life so much better. We can’t do enough to support the work of Kosair.

“I remember the birthday celebration that followed Sarah’s surgery. The Ashbaughs had moved back from California, and Sarah was getting stronger after surgery. The two girls picked right back up on their friendship and didn’t skip a beat. I was so happy to see that.”

Said Sarah: “I love sharing my birthday with my cousin. It reminds be that birthdays aren’t just for you. It’s something to share! Chelsea’s an awesome person and a great friend. I love her. I hope she has a wonderful birthday.”