"MasterChef Junior" alum Ben Watkins died Monday afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer. His uncle and maternal grandmother, Anthony and Donna Edwards, announced his passing in a statement.
The aspiring chef was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, a rare soft tissue tumour, not long after he turned 13-years-old last September. He received treatment at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. In a joint statement published on his #Love4Ben GoFund Me page, his relatives confirmed that he "went home to be with his mother," who died in 2017.
"After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marvelled at Ben's strength, courage, and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know," Anthony and Donna wrote.
"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," they continued. "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. #Love4Ben."
Watkins was one of the 24 contestants who joined Season 6 of "MasterChef Junior" when he was only 11-years old. He placed Top 18 and was a fan favourite. He later opened Big Ben's Bodacious BBQ and Delicatessen in the Miller Community of Gary, Indiana with his late parents.
In tribute, chef Gordon Ramsay mourned the loss of the "incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man."
"Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins' family with this terrible loss," he tweeted.
Watkin's #Love4Ben fund was initially opened to help him with his studies and medical treatments after his parents died. They were found dead from murder-suicide after his father shot and killed his mother and then himself. The campaign has now raised over $197,000 for the boy's memorial fund.