Watkins was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, an extremely rare soft tissue tumor that typically is seen in children and young adults, not long after his 13th birthday last September. In a statement on Tuesday, Watkins' maternal grandmother and uncle said he died on Monday after his year-and-half-long battle with cancer.
"After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben's strength, courage and love for life," the statement on the GoFundMe page for Watkins' memorial reads. "He never, ever complained. 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."
"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," the statement continues.
In 2017, Watkins' parents were found dead after a domestic violence incident that was ruled a murder-suicide, according to the Chicago Tribune. The newspaper reported that Watkins' father shot and killed his mother, and then himself.
At the time of his parents' deaths, Watkins had just wrapped filming season 6 of Fox's MasterChef Junior, which aired the next year. After making his TV debut and placing in the top 18 on the reality competition series, people across the country started donating to the fan favorite's GoFundMe campaign, known as #Love4Ben. The campaign is now a memorial fund and has currently raised over $190,000.
EndemolShine North America and FOX Entertainment released the following statement after news of Watkins' passing:
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Junior family. 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.”