OLDSMAR — The first time Robyn Haynes walked the Relay for Life was in 2005 with her mother, Susan, who was battling breast cancer.
The next year, her mom was too sick to participate, but Haynes walked to raise money to find a cure.
Susan Haynes died in October 2007, but Robyn, 20, is still raising money for the American Cancer Society. She is a team captain and a member of the planning committee for the Oldsmar Relay for Life, which will take place tonight and Saturday morning at Canal Park.
"I do it in memory of my mom," Haynes said. "If she were still here, she'd be doing it with me."
Haynes' team, Susan's Survivors, has seven members, including her father, Robert, 58, and her boyfriend, Stan Ivanov, 24. They hope to raise more than $2,500 in pledges by walking all night with nearly 400 other participants.
The event starts at 6 with a survivors lap in which survivors walk or are pushed in wheelchairs by their caregivers. On the next lap around the track, the survivors are joined by their family members. Throughout the night, team members take turns walking to raise money to beat cancer.
"The idea is that cancer won't sleep and neither will we," Haynes said.
When the participants aren't walking, they are doing everything from playing poker, musical chairs and bingo, to selling food at their tents to raise additional funds, according to Jan Chaffee, 59, chair of this year's Oldsmar event.
"We really have an interesting list of activities designed to keep people awake all night," she said.
Chaffee's husband, Bryan, 55, is a prostate cancer survivor who "came out" to his friends about his disease at last year's Relay for Life after remaining silent for quite some time after his diagnosis and treatment.
One of the most powerful parts of the event is the luminaria lighting, which occurs after sundown. Participants light candles in small white bags to symbolize someone who has battled cancer.
"That's my favorite part of the whole event," Haynes said, "seeing all those lights in memory of loved ones."
The goal for the Oldsmar relay is $70,000, up about $10,000 from last year's total. Some of the money raised goes to research, but much of the proceeds are used by the local American Cancer Society offices to fund programs such as Feel Good Look Good, which offers beauty tips to women going through chemotherapy.
"I really like the fact that all of the money we raise stays in the Tampa Bay area," Haynes said.
Another program funded through local efforts is the Road to Recovery, which uses volunteers to transport patients to and from treatment.
In addition to her Relay for Life efforts, Haynes participates as a volunteer in the Road to Recovery program.
"Being with survivors makes you feel so grateful," she said. "They are completely optimistic, and it makes me want to be as much help as possible."