As reported by Variety, MasterChef Junior contestant Ben Watkins died earlier this week from angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a rare form of cancer, after going through treatment for the last 18 months. Watkins was 14.
The news was confirmed on a GoFundMe page set up by Watkins’ family in 2017 to raise money for him to go to school after his parents died (a Chicago Tribune story says his father killed his mother in what the cops determined to be a murder-suicide). The GoFundMe statement talks about marveling “at Ben’s strength, courage, and love for life” and how much it meant to him to see his community come together to help him after his parents died and after revealing his cancer diagnoses. “Ben suffered more than his share in his 14 years on this Earth,” the post says, “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.”
Watkins appeared on MasterChef Junior in 2018, after having spent his childhood working at his family’s barbecue restaurant. He placed in the top 18 on the show. The GoFundMe page is still active, now repositioned as a memorial fund, and it has raised nearly $200,000.