Teen Challenge Co-Founder Conquers Coronavirus

NEW YORK – The Teen Challenge addiction recovery ministry opened the doors of its first facility in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960. Founded in 1958 by brothers David and Don Wilkerson in 1950, Teen Challenge rose to prominence with the publication of David’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade in 1963.

Don Wilkerson

The book became “a publishing phenomenon,” with more than 11 million copies sold in the first 10 years. The movie based on the book became a box office success in 1970s, starring Pat Boone and Eric Estrada. It was eventually translated into 30 languages and screened in 150 countries.

Although big-brother David was the face of the organization, Don took on the day-to-day management of the operations at the Brooklyn center in 1971. The ministry branched out across the country and, ultimately around the entire world. In 2017, the ministry was renamed as Adult & Teen Challenge.

David Wilkerson died at the age of 79 in 2011. Younger brother Don, now 80 years old, passed through a life and death experience this past week.

Following a visit to the Brooklyn Adult & Teen Challenge center in March, Don became so ill that it took all the strength he had just to walk or talk. That was just about the time we began to become more fully aware of the Coronavirus pandemic. Don was taken to a hospital, diagnosed with pneumonia, and tested for COVID-19. Hospital staff medicated him and sent him home to rest and wait for the test results.

A week later, he became critically ill and was hospitalized with a confirmed case of the Coronavirus. New York City has always been the hotbed for Teen Challenge. Don discovered the hard way that it had become a hotspot for COVID-19 – and he brought it home with him.

In the midst of the search for a possible cure, a nurse offered an “experimental drug” prescribed by a hospital doctor. Don agreed to take it, praying that it would work. He described the rest of the day as “a blur.”

The medication was hydroxychloroquine.

As he awoke the next morning, he felt significantly better. He began crying when he realized that he had regained the sense of taste he had lost prior to his illness – evidence that the hydroxychloroquine was working effectively in his system.

CBN News reported that Don has been “the only person associated with Teen Challenge in Brooklyn to have come down with the virus, and the men there remain on the job,” distributing some 20 tons of food throughout their community.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be an endorsement for the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of the Coronavirus. Neither the medication nor any form of it should be taken unless prescribed by a licensed physician. We cannot know to a certainty that Mr. Wilkerson’s return to health was a result of hydroxychloroquine. We do know, however, that he is well because of the healing hand and marvelous grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


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