Alumni Spotlight – Carter Viss

Although Carter grew up in a landlocked state, he spent his childhood catching every fish, reptile, and insect he could get his hands on. During his K-12 education at Denver Christian, Carter loved being active. His favorite memories included field day, tag during recess, creating videos with friends, and drawing a mural as his senior art project. Denver Christian also played a significant role in shaping Carter’s faith. He says, “Although I often faced challenges in my adolescent years, I was grounded by friends and a community that kept me in the right direction. I base any wisdom I have because of my twelve years at DC.” 

Carter’s faith and love for a vibrant life continued to grow after high school. Carter’s passion for marine life only grew as he got older. It led him to South Florida, where he studied Marine Biology at Palm Beach Atlantic University. After college, he began working at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center.

On Thanksgiving morning in 2019, Carter Viss welcomed the holiday in his favorite way–out in the water. Carter went out diving with a friend. After finishing up for the day, they began returning to shore. Suddenly, Carter realized a large boat was speeding toward him. In only seconds, Carter managed to swerve away, protecting his head and torso from a direct hit. Carter lost his right arm and sustained severe injuries to his other limbs. What had been Carter’s peaceful spot became the sight of unimaginable trauma. A series of miracles kept Carter alive. Carter’s friend, Andy, was able to reach Carter and get the boat’s attention. A woman paddle boarding close to Carter had just learned how to tie a tourniquet days before. As they sped back to shore, Andy told Carter that God was with them. Those simple words and God’s profound presence filled Carter during those long few minutes before they reached the shore. The ambulance reached the hospital only a few minutes later. 

Miraculously, Carter survived the accident, even though it was unclear whether he would survive the night. For the next days, weeks, and months, Carter faced one small battle after the next. Not only did Carter experience intense trauma–so did his family, his diving partner Andy, and many others. 

From the very beginning, God has been using Carter’s accident as a profound witness to others. Soon after the accident, Carter’s mom Leila, began an online journal on Caring Bridge. This provided many, including those of us in the Denver Christian community, with regular reminders of God’s provision and presence in life’s darkest moments. 

Carter says, “After the accident, my life mission didn’t change, but was amplified. My lifelong passion for the ocean and its inhabitants was placed in the spotlight through the accident and gave me the opportunity to make more of a difference now than before.” Carter has worked to spread awareness about boating safety, create a new 3D diving flag which is more visible to boaters, and advocate for slower boating speeds close to the shoreline. 

In addition, Carter says, “God gave me a new mission through the accident: to share my story as an example of His faith and guidance.” Since his early days in the hospital, Carter possessed not just the will to heal, but to help others. “It was one of the first thoughts that popped in my head when I started thinking about making the best of this situation.” After initially returning to work at the marine center, Carter went on to found the Carter Viss Foundation with the goal to be a significant presence in the boating and diving community throughout Florida. 

For those of us at Denver Christian, Carter’s testimony over the past years has been a powerful example of courage, of family, and most of all–of God’s goodness. We are excited to welcome Carter and his family back this spring for an event on campus. We have a lot to catch up on–Carter was married this past June, and ran his first half-marathon in December. 

Carter says, “DC was the place that shaped me to be a man of God during the most formative years of my life. My education at DC gave me an insight into how God plays a role in all aspects of our academic, social and recreational lives. Although I often faced challenges in my adolescent years, I was grounded by friends and a community that kept me in the right direction.”

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