Ben Watkins, a popular contestant on the Fox show MasterChef Junior, has reportedly died. He was 14 years old.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Watkins passed away on Monday (November 16) after struggling with a rare form of cancer for a year and a half. Tragically, his death comes three years after both his parents were killed in a domestic violence incident.
Watkins competed on season six of MasterChef Junior, which aired from March to May of 2018. At only 10 years old, he reached the top 6.
On Monday, Ben's uncle Anthony Edwards and grandmother Donna Edwards issued a joint statement over their loss.
"After losing both his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben's strength, courage and love for life," the statement, which was shared on a GoFundMe page, reads.
"He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know."
As of Tuesday night, the crowdfunding campaign has raised $194,000 of its $300,000 goal.
Days prior his 13th birthday in 2019, Ben was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma. The disease is one where a soft tissue tumor occurs and builds. It only happens among a small number of children and young adults.
"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,” the statement continued.
“We cannot thank this community enough for holding out family up in prayer and for all that you've done."
The statement concluded, "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.”
Ben was being treated at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Edwards told the Tribune a golf-ball sized tumor grew into a grapefruit-sized mass in his nephew's neck. He had also been undergoing chemotherapy for tumors on his lungs, spine and shoulder..
Our thoughts are with Ben Watkins’ friends and family during this difficult time.