MasterChef Junior season six contestant Ben Watkins has been diagnosed with a tumor, only three years after losing both parents. The young 13-year-old chef is receiving treatment for angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma. It is a rare condition that Watkins' family claims only six people in the world have been diagnosed with to this point according to E! News.
The news comes only three years after the tragic death of Watkins' mother and father, Leila Edwards and Mike Watkins, in a murder-suicide. According to the Chicago Tribune, the 2017 incident led to Watkins' community outside of Chicago to rally around the young boy, with Watkins' uncle explaining why the young boy was so important.
MasterChef Junior Star Ben Watkins, 13, Diagnosed with Rare Tumor 3 Years After His Parents' Death https://t.co/pgcNGV060j— People (@people) July 30, 2020
"Ben is the best gift my sister ever gave us," brother Anthony Edwards added. "And the best gift she could ever leave us." The community and school acquaintances created an educational trust fund for Watkins in the wake of the tragic deaths, but the current situation is unforeseen.
The fund started for Watkins has amassed nearly $30,000 since starting and is expected to grow following the diagnosis according to E! News. He's currently undergoing treatment for the diagnosis at the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
"Despite all of Ben's trials and tribulations,he remains positive and looks forward to getting back in the kitchen and pursuing his dream to become an engineer," The GoFundMe for Watkins reads. "Members of the community have joined together to see that the life challenges that Ben has gone through [do] not derail him from reaching his full potential and fulfilling his dreams."
The young chef ended in the top 18 on season six of MasterChef Junior and maintained experience in the kitchen by helping his father at a barbecue restaurant the elder Watkins owned in Gary, Indiana. This helped created the spark for the young chef to take up work in the kitchen but made it clear to the Chicago Tribune that he wasn't only working in culinary pursuits, hoping to head into engineering at some point.
"It's more reliable than being a chef," Watkins told the outlet about his educational goals. But he still has a personal motivation to succeed in the kitchen, noting how he was hoping to open his own barbecue restaurant like his father. While the original restaurant closed after his parents' tragic death, the young chef held onto the dream.