After losing both parents just three years ago, “MasterChef Junior” star Ben Watkins faces yet another personal trial and tribulation.
The 13-year-old cook, who entered the sixth season of the hit FOX cooking competition, was recently diagnosed with a rare disease, according to a GoFundMe started by his grandmother and uncle.
Trendy stories, celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.
Watkins is being treated for angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor that typically occurs in children and young adults. Those close to Watkins say he is one of six people in the world to receive such a rare diagnosis. He is currently undergoing treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
Watkins’ uncle Trent McCain provided an update for fans and followers on Thursday: Watkins has started chemotherapy.
In September 2017, the aspiring chef lost both of her parents, Leila Edwards and Mike Watkins, in a murder-suicide, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Before his parents passed away, Watkins helped out at his family’s restaurant, which even bears his name – Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue, Bakery & Deli. Although the restaurant closed the month his parents died, the aspiring chef still remained passionate about food.
That year, the community of Miller Beach (a neighborhood in Gary, Indiana where Watkins lived) rallied around him, raising more than $ 30,000 through fundraising.
“Despite all of Ben’s trials and tribulations, he remains positive and can’t wait to get back to the kitchen and pursue his dream of becoming an engineer,” # Love4Ben said at GoFundMe at the time. “Members of the community came together to see that the life challenges Ben went through did not prevent him from reaching his full potential and achieving his dreams. “
Watkins was one of 40 contestants, aged 8 to 13, during his season, who competed to become the “Junior MasterChef” champion and win the grand prize of $ 100,000. Barely 11 at the time, he made it into the top 18.