Fans of the television show “MasterChef Junior” are in mourning this week after the death of Ben Watkins, who was a contestant on season 6 of the show. He was only 14 years-old, and he died after a battle with a rare form of cancer.
Entertainment Tonight reported that Watkins had just celebrated his 13th birthday last September when he was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, which is an extremely rare soft tissue tumor that typically is seen in children and young adults. The teenager’s maternal grandmother and uncle released a statement saying that he died on Monday after battling the rare form of cancer for over a year.
“After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life,” they said in a statement on the GoFundMe page for Watkins’ memorial. “He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know. When Ben’s rare illness was shared with the world, he was so heartened by the outpouring of love he received from every corner of the globe — especially here in his hometown of Gary, Indiana.”
“Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over, and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many,” they added.
In 2017, Watkins’ mother and father were found dead in a domestic violence incident that would later be ruled a murder-suicide. Police concluded that Watkins’ father had shot and killed his mother before killing himself.
At the time of his parents’ deaths, Watkins had just finished filming “MasterChef Junior,” which aired the following year. After he made it all the way to the top 18 and fans learned his story, they started donating to the fan favorite’s GoFundMe campaign, known as #Love4Ben. This campaign has since been converted into a memorial fund for Watkins, and at the time of this writing, it has raised over $190,000.
Earlier this year, “MasterChef Junior” host Gordon Ramsay and some of Watkins’ former competitors made a special video for him saying that they were praying for him amidst his cancer battle. Watkins will be dearly missed by them, as well as by his family and his millions of fans.