Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Activist Wants to Help a Friend ; Hopes to Create Scholarship to Honor Jessi Evans

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Activist Wants to Help a Friend ; Hopes to Create Scholarship to Honor Jessi Evans

Article excerpt

An Indianapolis activist is headed to Southern Illinois this weekend to help raise money in the honor of a Norris City teenager who was murdered last year. Richard Propes, 47, whose legs were amputated below the knee, was born with spina bifida and was sexually abused by a neighbor when he was young. He plans to travel in his wheelchair from the Carmi City Hall to the park at the Norris City Reservoir on Saturday in honor of 17-year-old Jessi Evans.

Evans and her boyfriend, Jacob Wheeler, 22, were shot to death in late August last year. Evans had also been sexually assaulted. Danny Coston, 37, of Carmi was convicted of the murders earlier this month after a one-day bench trial and faces at least 53 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 17.

Propes' goal is to help Evans' mother - a longtime acquittance - raise at least $5,000 so that a scholarship in Jessi's name can be awarded for at least the next 10 years.

"Jessi always wanted to be a superstar," said her mother, Kristina Surprenant. "By doing everything we're doing right now.. it's creating a legacy just to ensure that she is not forgotten."

She added that supporters are also selling T-shirts with some of her daughter's artwork on them.

Donations for the ride are being accepted online either on Propes' website, www.tendernesstour.com, or at the event's Web page at www.gofundme.com/tendernesstour23. So far, more than $2,000 has been raised in Evans' name, Propes said.

The public is invited to either join Propes on his trek, leaving Carmi at 9 a.m., or meet him in Norris City, where Surprenant has promised a surprise ending. It will be about a 17-mile journey. Propes said he expects the tour to take about six hours - noting he often takes several breaks and also loves talking to people he meets. He said donations from well-wishers while he is making the trek are also appreciated.

Surprenant helped with some of Propes's previous fundraising efforts when she lived in Indianapolis and said she was fascinated with his work. The two have stayed in touch, mostly on Facebook, as well.

Propes said he was on a "tenderness tour" - which is what he calls his multiday rides - in Northern Indiana when he learned of Evans' death. He said the death of a friend's daughter hit him "especially hard. …

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