"MasterChef Junior" star Ben Watkins tragically passed away on Monday, November 16. He had been battling a rare cancer since the age of 13.
Ben Watkins first came into the limelight as a contestant on the popular Gordon Ramsay show, "MasterChef Junior," where he became a fan favorite. He was 11 years old then.
Two years later, the world was shocked to learn that the bubbly teenager had been given such a grim diagnosis and was undergoing chemotherapy. Here are five facts about the Indiana boy who touched the hearts of his community and viewers worldwide.
1. HE WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT COOKING
Ben was born to be a chef, and he flexed his passion and skills on the sixth season of "MasterChef Junior, which aired in 2018. The aspiring chef excelled, and out of 40 competing contestants, he made it to the top 20. He finished 18th and was eliminated during the fifth episode.
Before his time on the television show, he used his talents to make money selling homemade baked goodies such as cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls, banana bread at his father's restaurant.
They didn't see the warning signs that tragedy was looming
2. HE HAD A RESTAURANT NAMED AFTER HIM
Cooking is something that ran in the family for Ben. His father, Michael Watkins, had opened a restaurant, "Big Ben's Bodacious Barbecue & Deli," naming it after his son.
When the restaurant opened, Ben spent his time helping his father by collecting customer orders and attending to the cash register. After his father's death, Ben hoped to one day revive the restaurant.
3. HE OVERCAME A FAMILY TRAGEDY
Six months before appearing on "MasterChef Junior," when Ben was just 10 years old, he lost both his parents in a heartbreaking murder-suicide in September 2017. His father, Michael, 46, shot and killed his mother, Leila Edwards, 43, before turning the gun on himself.
Although his parents were contemplating getting a divorce, Ben's grandmother, Donna Edwards, and his uncle, Anthony Edwards, said they didn't see the warning signs that tragedy was looming.
4. HIS COMMUNITY SUPPORTED HIS DREAMS
Following his parents' death, Ben's community came together to support the young orphan who was now living with his grandmother. A Go Fund Me campaign, "#Love4Ben," was erected to raise funds for the aspiring chef who also wanted to study engineering.
After his cancer diagnosis, the " #Love4Ben" fund grew to $190k as love and support poured in from all corners of the world. The money was used to cover his treatments and chemotherapy.
5. HE SUFFERED FROM A RARE CANCER
Watkins received the grim news of his diagnosis when he was 13 years old. He suffered from angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a rare soft tissue tumor that mostly affects children and young adults.
At the time of his diagnosis, his uncle confirmed that Ben was one of only six children in the world with the disease. Ben started chemotherapy in July but underwent treatment at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago until his passing.
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