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Gordon Ramsay donated $50,000 to late MasterChef Junior contestant Ben Watkins' cancer treatment back in August, EW can confirm. The 14-year-old died Monday after an 18-month battle with a rare form of cancer called angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, at the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Ramsay and his fellow MasterChef Junior judges, as well as the contestants, sent well wishes to Watkins in a video from August, when he was undergoing treatment.
"If you can beat me in the MasterChef Junior kitchen, trust me, you can beat this," Ramsay said in the clip. "God bless, and lots of love, buddy."
Watkins competed in season 6 of the cooking competition, finishing in the top 18 when he was 11 years old. Shortly after his 13th birthday, he was diagnosed with cancer.
Two years earlier, he lost his parents in a murder-suicide. Watkins' grandmother and uncle, who became his guardians, said he remained optimistic and outgoing despite the hardship.
"After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben's strength, courage, and love for life," his family wrote in a statement on GoFundMe. "He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know."
"Ben was just so selfless," his uncle Anthony Edwards told the Chicago Tribune. "It was unreal, the character he had."
"Ben, you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man," Ramsay tweeted Tuesday. "Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins' family with this terrible loss."
We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX kitchen today. Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man. Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss Gx pic.twitter.com/RX81hP7lbw
— Gordon Ramsay (@GordonRamsay) November 17, 2020
Watkins began cooking at the age of 3 and aspired to be a chef, helping out at his parents' restaurant, Big Ben's Bodacious Barbecue, Bakery, and Deli (which was named after Watkins), in Gary, Ind. His hometown community and many others rallied around him over the last three years, helping to raise money to support his family.
"We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you've done," Watkins' family said in their statement. "Ben suffered more than his share in his 14 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 GoFundMe, which is now the #Love4Ben Memorial Fund, has raised over $200,000, with donations still pouring in.