Armed with only a wheelchair and a message of hope, local activist Richard Propes has wheeled himself around Indiana and the Midwest every year since 1989, traveling 3,000 miles in total by wheelchair on what he calls the Tenderness Tour. Through his tour, Propes has raised money (over $300,000, according to Propes) for organizations devoted to victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Propes, who began the first tour at what he calls a depressing period of his life, says the experience has brought dramatic changes to his life.
"I am a symbol of hope for people that you can move on and triumph over a variety of circumstances," Propes, a sexual abuse survivor and double amputee (below the knees) with spina bifida, said. "When I started the tour 20 years ago, I was living on disability and pretty much had nothing."
Now, Propes is preparing for his 20th and final tour, which he will celebrate with a Tenderness Tour first: the Give a Girl a Chance
compilation, a 20-track CD that will feature songs by local and national artists. A release party and concert will be held June 14, 2-5 p.m. at the Northview Church of the Brethren.
The event will feature performances by many of the compilation's artists, including Jennie DeVoe, Jeff DeHerdt, Ann McWilliams and Soulshine. Admission is free and the CD will be available for $10 at the party and online. Sales will benefit three charities: Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, New Community Project and the Young Peacemakers Film Festival.
"I worked really hard to identify organizations that I felt were making a difference and who were fiscally responsible," Propes said. "It's an effort to provide education opportunities to girls in all parts of the world. I think one of the things we know is that education can help with empowerment and help stop the cycle of violence."
Many of the compilation's artists are known for donating their work to charity, including Indy-based singer-songwriter Jennie DeVoe. DeVoe says she contributed her song "What if it Rains" to the compilation because of its optimistic message about staying strong in difficult times.
"Everybody's going to have their downtime," DeVoe said. "You've got to live life and just forge ahead."
The compilation will feature various kinds of artists and musical styles. Jazz/pop pianist Jeff DeHerdt's "Shine Your Light" is a gospel song with a similar message to DeVoe's. "It basically talks about how everybody has their down days and that there's a light at the end of the tunnel," DeHerdt said. "People who suffer from domestic abuse often feel that there's no way out."
This message is one that Propes has promoted for all 20 years of the Tenderness Tour: hope in spite of adversity.
"I very intentionally wanted to celebrate the idea that I've been doing this for 20 years, and the hope that people can break their cycles," Propes said.