Ben Watkins has died. The 14-year-old competed on MasterchefJunior three years ago and was a fan favorite. He has since battled cancer and his family announced his tragic passing a short while ago. Ben died on Monday, November 16.
"Our Ben went home to be with his mother Monday afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer. After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben's strength, courage, and love for life. 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. We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you've done. Ben suffered more than his share in his 14 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. #love4Ben," read his family's statement.
Ben was an aspiring chef but also enjoyed other extracurricular activities. A few years ago, for example, he was a part of spell bowl, math bowl, and chess club at his school. He was also big into giving back to his community and volunteered to help rebuild broken bicycles for less fortunate children.
"Shortly after his 13th birthday, Ben was diagnosed with a rare illness called Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor usually [found] in children and young adults. Young Ben is one of only six people in the entire world diagnosed with this illness. Ben is currently undergoing treatment at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago," reads an excerpt from a GoFundMe page that was set up to assist his family with medical bills and other expenses. Ben had been undergoing treatment for the past 18 months.
This type of cancer is found in patients under the age of 30 years or younger 88 percent of the time.
"On Sept. 16, Ben's father, Michael Watkins, 46, shot and killed Ben's mother, Leila Edwards, 43, before taking his own life in their home in Gary's Miller section, according to police. Investigators ruled it a murder-suicide,' the Tribune reported at the time.
Family members told investigators that there weren't any warning signs of domestic issues prior to the incident.