Ben Watkins, the 14-year-old fan-favorite who appeared in the sixth season of MasterChef Junior died from a rare form of cancer on Monday.
The rising young culinary star was diagnosed with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a form of soft tissue tumor that occurs in children and young adults.
Ben was one of the six people in the world to have been diagnosed with the disease.
“Our Ben went home to be with his mother this afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer,” said Donna Edwards and Anthony Edwards, Ben’s maternal grandmother and uncle.
“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.”
Trent McCain, the family’s attorney who organized the GoFundMe campaign called #Love4Ben, recalled in a statement how Ben was an inspiration.
“I have seen humanity and kindness up close with the outpouring of love and support Ben has received over the past three years,” he said.
In 2017, Ben lost both of his parents when his father, Michael Watkins, shot and killed his mother, Leila Edwards, before killing himself.
“He never, ever complained,” the GoFundMe statement continued, “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.”
The aspiring chef was working at Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue, Bakery & Deli – the family’s restaurant his father opened and named after him – but it closed down after his parent’s death.
The tragedy didn’t stop him from dreaming of opening his own bakery or restaurant someday.
“I’m one of the lucky ones because I’ve got a grandma and an uncle who love me,” Ben once told his uncle.
“Ben’s life was grandiose in a way,” shared Anthony, “Every corner that he turned had transformed into a statement. It’s comforting to know he doesn’t have to experience such pain and suffering anymore.”