The Born to Act Players close their eyes and take a few deep breaths to focus and relax before starting their journey to find success Saturday. When you are a young person with Down syndrome, the world is a pretty daunting, hectic place. Quiet moments like these help ease the way and clear the mind. “Every day, every way, I am getting better and better,” Susie Schallert, Casey Powell, Kristine Johnson and others chat in unison. “I am talented. I am creative. I am beautiful.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPhotos: At LA County Jail, Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates Christmas Mass with inmatesAnd they are. No doubt about it. You couldn’t find a better ensemble on Broadway to bring alive the Pyramid of Success principles written by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden in his children’s book “Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success.” These are all young men and women who have had to fight for every inch of respect and admiration they’ve earned because too many people in our society can’t look beyond their disability to see their talent. No one would understand this more than the greatest talent scout of all, John Wooden. His great-grandson, Cameron Trapani, 13, is a special-needs student in assistant teacher Glenn Powell’s classroom at Lull Special Education Center in Encino. About a month ago, Powell asked Cameron’s mom, Catherine, if she would ask her grandfather if he would allow the Born to Act Players to perform his book “Inch and Miles” in their upcoming show at Valley College. “She said she would ask her grandfather,” Powell said. “The next day, she came in and told me he said yes. We were absolutely thrilled.” Wooden, who is 95, was unavailable for comment this week, but watching these special-needs young adults bring alive his inspirational words at rehearsal Saturday, you just knew he’d be as proud of them as any of his national championship teams. Because if Wooden has taught us anything, it’s that success isn’t about winning or being the best athlete. It’s about effort and heart. The Born to Act Players are 100 percent effort and heart. “Coach Wooden’s family is coming to the show next Sunday and we’re hoping he’s going to feel well enough to join them,” said Powell, who portrays Wooden in the play. It is the last day before summer vacation, and Inch and Miles’ have one final assignment. The teacher – Mr. Wooden – has just written this question on the board: “What is success?” Miles the Mouse says that’s easy: “Success is winning a shiny medal or trophy for first place.” Mr. Wooden shakes his head. Inch the Inchworm says: “Success is being the most popular kid at school and having the most friends.” A frown crosses Mr. Wooden’s face. They were both wrong. “Success is happiness in your heart because you try 100 percent to be your personal best,” he says. With that, Mr. Wooden sends Inch and Miles off on an adventure to find success – along the way, meeting Axelrod the Ant, Betty the Bee, Charlie the Chimp, Silky the Spider, Louie the Lion and a dozen other lovable animal characters who each provide a step on the Pyramid of Success. Silky the Spider takes my hand and walks me across the rehearsal hall at Valley College on Saturday morning to introduce me to some of her friends – Louie the Lion and Fred the Frog. “We help Inch and Miles find success,” says Silky, aka Susie Schallert, who has been a member of the cast since 2003, playing the Little Mermaid and Juliet in previous productions. “Success is being happy and trying real hard, and that’s what we do,” says Casey Powell, aka Louie the Lion. Glenn Powell is his dad, and Mary Rings, director of the Born to Act Players, is his mom. Rings started the group with other parents of Down syndrome children in 1994 in a small studio space in North Hollywood. From a few kids, the cast has grown to more than 30 today. They meet in the auditorium at Valley College every Saturday to rehearse for their two annual fundraising performances. Starting each rehearsal with a little chant that says it all: “I am talented. I am creative. I am beautiful.” Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749 IF YOU GO To see the Born to Act Players’ summer performance of “Once Upon a Time” – which includes “Inch and Miles” – call director Mary Rings at (818) 345-5057. There are two performances next weekend: 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Valley College Horseshoe Theater, 5800 Fulton Ave., Valley Glen.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!