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Easy Layup: Navy Hooper’s 5K Fundraiser a Runaway Success

Carry Forward race organizer Lysander Rehnstrom
Carry Forward race organizer Lysander Rehnstrom, a Navy Midshipman and Division 1 basketball guard, speaks to 5k participants near the starting line at Herndon United Methodist Church.

The man behind one of the more successful Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) 5K fundraisers — a winding trek through the streets of Herndon, Virginia, a few dozen miles from the nation’s capital — never thought, in his wildest dreams, he’d be where he is today.

But for Lysander Rehnstrom, the 21-year-old Navy Midshipman and Division 1 basketball guard, nothing about his journey has been “traditional,” as he says.

Lysander “wasn’t one of those kids whose lifelong dream was to go to the Naval Academy,” he professes, but there he was, in summer 2023, wearing his Navy colors to organize a group of more than 50 runners to raise about $10,000 for WWP’s programs and services at a virtual Carry Forward 5k race.

Anyone can create a Carry Forward Virtual 5K in their community, which allows participants to choose their own date and location to run, walk, or jog a 5K to honor and empower wounded veterans.

I imagine that somehow, some way, my impacts today will help inspire the next Carry Forward race or the next person to step up and make a contribution – one that would someday help either myself or one of my sailors or Marines in their endeavors,” Lysander said.

Preparing for a Future of Service

Lysander shooting a basketball
Photo credit: Phil Hoffmann, Navy Athletics

The seeds of Lysander’s fundraiser were planted while he was watching YouTube.

He had just transferred to Navy from George Mason after his freshman year of college and – with no prior connection to the military – wanted to understand how he could prepare for a career of service and its effects.

The video that caught his attention was about a young Marine, 21 years old, who came home from Iraq, faced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and took his own life.

“When I saw that video, it dawned on me,” Lysander said. “There has to be something I can do.”

Like a run through his hometown, the key to Lysander’s life has been keeping pace through the ups and downs. The Naval Academy altered the course of his life, which started in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where Lysander was born. 

Now, having signed his “2 for 7” contract, he will finish two more years of school before serving at least five years in the Navy, a commitment he calls “one of the happier moments” of his life.

The YouTube video made Lysander consider his future and the future of his fellow service members. As a peer advisor at the academy, he is part of a student-led initiative to provide resources for mental health help within the brigade of Midshipmen – and with his Carry Forward fundraiser, he wanted to help even more veterans.

Wounded veterans frequently face PTSD and other significant health challenges during and after their service. In a 2022 survey of registered WWP warriors, more than 75% said they live with PTSD, about half of which (49%) say it’s moderate to severe.

“Not only is [mental health struggle] something I’ve personally gone through, but it’s something I more and more am trying to get involved with helping others to better their lives and to better prepare,” Lysander said.

Homeward Bound

Runners gather for a group photo on July 22, 2023 in Herndon, Virginia.
Runners gather for a group photo on July 22, 2023 in Herndon, Virginia.

There was no better way to give back to the veteran community, he said, than by uniting his hometown around the cause.

A basketball standout in high school, he said he always felt the warmth of Herndon’s support and wanted to cultivate it again this past summer.

Characters essential to Lysander’s journey – including his high school coach – rallied around his fundraiser and wanted to help make it a success.

On the day of the race, Lysander didn’t run; he was too busy handling the logistics. But two of his Navy teammates – Daniel Deaver, now a Navy pilot in Pensacola, Florida, and Mike Woods, a sophomore forward – ran in his honor. So did his former high school teammate, Michael Horgan, who helped organize the race. Daniel ended up winning the 5K.

“To bring together so many different aspects of my life and to see months of hard work from both myself and my family all come together, it was unbelievable,” Lysander said.

For Lysander, Carry Forward was “too good to be true,” he said. WWP gave him all the support and resources; he just needed to direct them into his hometown.

“It’s not easy for a young guy to say, ‘I’m going to start a race to benefit wounded warriors,’” Navy basketball coach Ed DeChellis told CBS News in a piece that aired February 2024. “He had to get buy-in from his community as well. He has that kind of infectious personality to be able to pull that off.”

With the season wrapping up, Lysander finds himself mulling an obvious question.

Will he bring Herndon together for another Carry Forward this year?

“I could definitely be talked into it,” he said.

Contact: Julian Routh, Public Relations,, 904.544.0195

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

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