FOR many years, Michelle Faithfull played touch football at the Newcastle Harness Racing Club grounds at Broadmeadow.
She would see the Hunter Westpac Rescue Helicopter come and go from its nearby base, and was moved to do some volunteer work for the organisation.
Then an email arrived about a fund-raising trek in China for the helicopter service.
"I was working at Forsythes at the time, and we got this email and everybody wanted to go," she said.
"But the business owners said 'Hang on a minute, you can't all go,' but they offered to pay the registration fee for one of us.
"We had to submit a proposal to say why we wanted to go and how we were going to fund-raise."
The Bar Beach resident was chosen to tackle the Great Wall of China Trek in 2011.
She raised about $14,500, which also covered her travel expenses.
"It was a great experience," she said.
Now, two years later, she is preparing to take on the gruelling Kokoda Track in October.
"The idea scared me at first. I thought, 'Can I really do this?'
"I made the decision to go in December last year, and since then I've been making a concerted effort to get myself in peak condition.
"I've been trying to do something every day. Now I'm at the point where we're less than three months out and we have to kick in an intensive training plan.
"It has been a big motivator to get myself in shape - not just physically. I think it'll be a big mental challenge as well.
"I walk every day, then on weekends I do a fitness class and I've just started a strength training program. I've also been doing walks in Glenrock on the weekends. I'm just trying to do as much as I possibly can."
Ms Faithfull is hoping to raise $20,000 this time.
She has been organising fund-raising events including the Chicks With Sticks golf day (which also raises money for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation), as well as movie nights and music gigs.
But even before she began trekking for charity, Ms Faithfull has been a dedicated volunteer for organisations including Camp Quality, The Starlight Foundation, CanTeen, HMRI and, more recently, Soul Cafe.
"I lost a child 26 years ago, and I spent four months sitting in a premmie nursery in a hospital. So for a while I was completely immersed in that world," she said.
"It's an experience you never forget, and I always wanted to do something to give back.
"I had another daughter, who is now 25, and for the past 10 years or so I've had the chance to do some volunteering," she said.
"You get a lot of perspective when you're in these environments - even at Soul Cafe, which I've started volunteering for recently, for the homeless in Newcastle.
"If you're not doing anything on a Sunday, get off your bum and go and help, and get some perspective, do something constructive.
"It feels good to be able to do something like that.