X ELLES RACING

BOZEMAN – Rachelle Croft and Rhonda Cahill want to show other mothers that they can achieve their dreams while raising children. In March, the two 30-something moms from Bozeman will compete in the toughest all-female off-road rally in the world in the Moroccan desert, the Rallye Aiche Des Gazelles.

The women are also using this life-affirming opportunity, for which they must raise $35,000 to participate, to shine the spotlight on an epidemic that has affected millions of people, including themselves.

Both Croft and Cahill are victims of sexual abuse, and Croft says their efforts at the world-famous race “will give a voice to a situation many find so difficult to talk about.”

At the same time, Cahill said, they hope to inspire other mothers to live their dreams as an example to their children, instead of waiting until the kids leave the nest.

Five percent of the funds the women raise for their racing endeavor will go to Voice Today, an organization dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse and providing healing for survivors.

The nine-day race hosts more than 150 two-women teams, each competing by navigating with just the use of a map and compass. Croft competed in 2012, and called it “by far the hardest thing I have ever done, outside of kids.

“It was like being lost in the desert in a foreign country with no one to help you,” she said. “It was hard and wonderful. I love a challenge, and after finishing the Rallye, you realize what you are capable of outside of your ‘normal’ life.”

Although Croft’s team in 2012 accepted sponsorship support from off-road companies, this year, she says, they’re taking only donations.

“Our mission needs to be at the forefront without distractions, so that is why we chose to go this way.”

That mission – bringing awareness to sexual abuse – is particularly relevant today. One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are affected by sexual abuse, according to Croft.

“It has been a long road for us – it is for most victims,” she said. “But I know that by speaking up, other victims might muster the courage to find their voice.”

Both women (pictured together above at right on an off-road expedition in the Yukon) work full time for Highline Productions, which Croft helped found in 2004. The Bozeman-based company produces Expedition Overland, an online adventure travel series.