AceShowbiz - Former "MasterChef Junior" contestant Ben Watkins has passed away at such a young age. The cooking prodigy died on Monday, November 16 after battling a rare form of cancer for a year and a half, his family has confirmed. He was only 14 years old.
Sharing the sad news on Tuesday, Ben's maternal grandmother Donna Edwards and uncle Anthony Edwards said in a statement posted on Facebook and a GoFund page, "Our Ben went home to be with his mother Monday afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with Cancer."
They praised Ben's strength and spirit while going through his hardships, "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."
Ben's family went on thanking fans and people in his hometown of Gary for their support for the teen after he revealed his cancer diagnosis. "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," they said. "We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you've done."
Concluding the statement, the family acknowledged, "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."
FOX has released a statement via "MasterChef Junior" Instagram page following Ben's passing. "It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Junior family," the network said. "Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a tremendous role model for chefs of all ages and will be dearly missed by everyone at EndemolShine North America and FOX Entertainment."
Gordon Ramsay, who is one of the judges on the show, also mourned Ben's death, posting on his own social media pages, "We lost a Master of the @masterchefjunior kitchen today. Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man. Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. I adored our time cooking and laughing together on set. Heartbroken today losing my little mate, sending all my love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss Gx."
Ben competed in season 6 of "MasterChef Junior" and placed in the Top 18, when he was only 11 years old. He lost his parents in a murder-suicide in 2017. Police told the Chicago Tribune at the time that his father shot and killed his mother, and then himself.
In July of this year, his family revealed that he was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor that typically occurs in children and young adults. He received the devastating news just days after his 13th birthday and had been receiving treatment at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.