Editor's note: This report was originally published in the Star-Telegram on Sept. 7, 2009.Melonie Caster knows she will become emotional today when her son steps onto the field at Cowboys Stadium.Her eyes welled in anticipation of that moment."For 16 years . . ." the mother said.Caster paused -- and gave a little smile -- as the words backed up in her throat."For 16 years Ive been told, 'Hell never . . . 'He cant . . . 'He wont. "Yet each day, each year, with each life-affirming achievement, the Bedford teenager keeps proving otherwise.As an infant, Trae Caster was violently shaken by a baby sitter and left with cerebral palsy, impaired vision and lifelong learning disabilities. Now hes a sophomore at Trinity High School in Euless, which opens its football season at 10:30 a.m. today against Bingham High School from South Jordan, Utah.Trae, dressed in a black uniform, will perform as a member of the Trojan marching band.His mom and stepfather will be there, beaming, cheering.So will other relatives and a special friend -- Traes idol -- whose gift of patience helped make this day possible.Traes vision, his mother said, "comes and goes." He struggles to form words and walks with an uneven gait. But the slender youth clutching a pair of drumsticks is no less a part of the Trinity band than any of its other members -- a fact that underscores the schools mission statement."We . . . strive to educate, respect and recognize all students," it reads in part.Band director Mario Casanova said he had no qualms about inviting Trae to make music with other students. Last year, a senior who played the trumpet marched with the Trojan band despite being legally blind. After his graduation the student embraced the band leader and thanked him for treating him like everyone else."We dont know what Trae can or cant do," Casanova said. "He doesnt even know. But whatever he can do, more power to him. He loves music. And hes having a great time."Injury and suspicionIt was a Tuesday in March 1993.Traes mother was at work when she received a phone call at noon.Her baby sitter, a licensed caregiver, said she had been feeding 11-week old Trae when he stopped breathing. The sitter called 911. A helicopter rushed the infant to Cook Childrens Medical Center in Fort Worth.When Melonie arrived, Trae -- his head swollen -- lay in the emergency room.The baby had retinal hemorrhaging and was having a grand mal seizure.The frightened mother was ordered to leave the room.That night an investigator took Melonie aside and told her that Trae had been shaken. Twenty-five to 30 percent of infants with shaken baby syndrome die from their injuries. Symptoms include seizures, comas, vomiting and breathing difficulties. Those who survive may live in a vegetative state or have other problems, including permanent brain damage, paralysis, blindness, deafness, learning disabilities and behavioral difficulties.Two days later a neurologist told Melonie and her husband that they faced a decision. Their baby, they were told, was in pain and dying. The parents were urged to consider taking Trae off the ventilator.Plans were made to unhook the child from life support at 6 a.m.The mother, her heart aching, held her baby all night.After the machine was turned off, Trae gasped for breath. He was put back on the ventilator and was weaned off over time. A doctor told Melonie that her son probably wouldnt live a year. The infant remained in the hospital for three months while his parents lived under a cloud of suspicion.During a civil hearing to terminate the couples parental rights to Trae, the baby sitter said that she had shaken the child while trying to resuscitate him. She walked out of the courtroom and never faced a criminal charge.On Christmas Day, shortly before his third birthday, Trae finally took his first steps."Doctors told me he was going to make it -- he would live," Melonie said. "Thats when it hit me. The person that did this to him was still walking the street."Caster sent her sons medical records to specialists in San Diego and Chicago. She said she was told that the severity of the injuries indicated that Trae had been shaken and thrown against a wall or piece of furniture.She took her findings to the Tarrant Countys district attorneys office only to learn that the three-year statue of limitations for injury to a child had expired.A state law protected the person who may have abused her son."Thats when I thought I would go insane," Melanie said. "I almost lost my child. The state had [temporarily] taken him from me and threatened to put me in prison. I was so angry. With everything. I lost my faith in God."Thats when I decided I had to do something."She became her sons advocate. In 2001 Melonie appeared before the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Her testimony led to Traes Law -- legislation that extended the statue of limitations for injury to a child, disabled or elderly person to 10 years. That is the same time afforded for prosecuting sexual abuse of a child.Gov. Rick Perry appointed Melonie to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities.Today, she passionately urges other parents of children with disabilities to educate themselves."They need to know that their child can sit in a [regular] classroom," she said, her voice rising. "When professionals say their child cant be in the choir or they dont deserve a spot in the band, they can stand up and say, 'Yes they can. That is their legal right."An interest in musicShe saw it in her son during music therapy."Even when he was little," Melonie recalled, "Trae had a natural beat to music."When Trae showed an interest in playing the drums in junior high school, she introduced him to Nate Peace, then a member of the Trinity band.Peace, now a student at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., gave Trae weekly drum lessons for more than a year. His student learned to tap out the rhythm of different songs. Traes favorite was the musical theme from SpongeBob Square Pants.Trinitys band director is a friendly, cheerful man. Hes also very demanding. During one rehearsal this summer, the Trinity musicians were practicing a song. After the last note, the trumpets, the clarinets, the tubas -- all 160 band instruments but one -- fell silent.One of the percussionists added a belated little drumroll.Casanova jerked his head toward the sound."Caster!" the director barked.When Trae returned home, his mother learned the source of her sons excitement, his smile of pure joy."Trae realized he really is part of the band," Melonie said."It was like, 'I get in trouble -- just like any other kid! "