ONE of the life lessons Diane Taylor passed on by example to her children was to never give up.
Even when she was confronting the cancer that would eventually take her at the age of 60, the Upper Hunter resident displayed great determination.
"She was a battler, Mum," said Ben Taylor.
So when Ben and his older sister Lauren Taylor hike and paddle the 470-kilometre length of the Hunter River to raise funds for the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse cancer treatment centre, they will be carrying more than the memory of their mother.
"I'm going to stick a photo of Mum on the front of our kayaks for a bit of extra motivation," explained Lauren Taylor. "I can imagine her saying, 'Keep going!'.
"It's part of the reason we need to be tough now, because she was so mentally strong. She would be able to do it."
When they were searching for a way to honour their mother while raising funds, the Taylor siblings looked to the river that had helped shape their lives.
Lauren Taylor said their mother was brought up in the Segenhoe Valley. As a wife and mother, she raised her family "just over the hill from the Hunter River" on a farm near Glenbawn Dam.
"Ben and I now live in Newcastle, so we thought this had a ring to it, to start in the Upper Hunter and paddle down to here," she said.
"It's a real eye-opener to see the path the river takes. You don't realise how winding it is."
The distance to be covered is not the only challenge. Neither has ever done long paddling stints before, so the siblings have been on the water practising in the single kayaks lent to them by the Newy Paddlers club.
"We thought about using a two-person kayak but then thought we'd kill each other," Ms Taylor said. "We want the brother-sister relationship to last the two weeks."
Each brings strengths to the marathon paddle.
"He's the determined one, I'm the whinger," Ms Taylor laughed.
"If I paddle far enough ahead, I won't hear her whinge," her brother added.
However, Ben Taylor said his sister had been the organiser, using social media and the bush telegraph to plan the journey and speak with landowners about camping on the banks, as well as tapping into local knowledge.
She was also the driving force for fund-raising. The Taylors have set a target of $25,000. They have already raised more than $10,000.
"I don't think we'd raise a cent without Lauren," Ben Taylor said.
Their father, Garry, will be providing support, trailing his adventurous children by road, transporting supplies and equipment.
To trace the river from its source to the mouth, the Taylors will set off from Barrington Tops on October 19, hiking along the banks for about three days and 100 kilometres, before hopping into their kayaks at Lake Glenbawn for a 10-day paddle to Newcastle harbour.
They plan to end their journey at Horseshoe Beach on November 2, the first anniversary of their mother's death. If Diane Taylor were here, her daughter reckoned, she would think her kids were "a bit crazy" for what they were doing.
"But she would be immensely proud of us," Lauren Taylor said.