Thirteen-year-old Ben Watkins, who appeared on Season 6 of “MasterChef Junior,” has been diagnosed with a rare tumor.
According to a statement from his family obtained by People, the young cook was diagnosed with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma (AFH) just days after his 13th birthday.
AFH is a soft tissue tumor that typically occurs in children and young adults. Per Ben’s loved ones, he is one of only six people in the entire world to be diagnosed with the illness.
A GoFundMe campaign titled “#Love4Ben,” originally created in 2017, is now being resurfaced by Ben’s grandmother Donna and uncle Anthony to help cover the cost of his medical expenses and his future education.
According to a July 24 update, Ben is currently undergoing treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
On Thursday, the page reports that Ben has started chemotherapy.
Ben’s diagnosis comes three years after his mother and father, Leila Edwards and Mike Watkins, died in a murder-suicide. Per the Chicago Tribune, authorities say that on September 16, 2017, Mike shot and killed Leila before taking his own life in their Gary, Indiana, home.
People reports that Ben had just finished filming the Fox reality TV competition show at the time of the tragedy.
Per the Chicago Tribune in October 2017, local residents and members of Ben’s school community created an educational trust fund for his future. Ben’s GoFundMe says nearly $30,000 was established for Ben at Peoples Bank in Munster, Indiana.
“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 states. “Members of the community have joined together to see that the life challenges that Ben has gone through does not derail him from reaching his full potential and fulfilling his dreams.”
Prior to his parents’ death, the Chicago Tribune says the young man worked at his father’s barbecue restaurant, Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli, named in his honor.
The newspaper also said his favorite school subjects were math and science, and that he was involved in a number of extracurricular activities including spell bowl, math bowl, and chess club.
On “MasterChef Junior,” Ben placed in the Top 18 and was a fan favorite. His season can be streamed on Hulu.
As of this writing, Ben’s GoFundMe has raised over $64,000.