04/08/2016 08:33 EDT | Updated 04/08/2016 08:59 EDT

Ex-Marine And Girl Fighting Genetic Disorder Have A Bond Like No Other

"She has pulled me out of rough spots just by thinking of her. That is a priceless gift."

David Douglas/Facebook

A photo of an ex-marine and a girl fighting a rare disease is melting hearts everywhere.

In the image, David “The Beast” Douglas, a six-foot tall, 330-pound weightlifter, holds the hand of Lindsay Ratcliffe.

Across the back of his shoulders is the word “Strong,” and at the bottom “Stronger,” with an arrow pointing to the 12-year-old.

I love this picture so much.

Posted by Jake Hamilton Fox 32 Chicago on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ratcliffe suffers from a rare genetic disorder called progeria and was diagnosed when she was four years old. According to the Progeria Research Foundation, the disorder ages the body eight to 10 times faster than normal and those diagnosed with it have an average lifespan of 14 years.

After the photo went viral, Douglas explained on Facebook that the sweet snap was taken by his friend.

“I felt very strongly about [the picture] so I wanted to get the point across on how I felt about it and her,” he said. “People looked at me as strong when everything about her was stronger. Instead of putting those words off to the side, I decided to put it right on me to make the point even louder. You have to look at the big picture of it.”

Everytime I look at this picture of my and little Lindsay meeting for the first time at Relentless years ago, a rush of...

Posted by David Douglas on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Douglas and Ratcliffe originally met in 2013 at a powerlifting competition called Relentless. The biannual event, which takes place in Ratcliffe’s hometown of Detroit, helps raise money, support and awareness for families with kids who have life-threatening medical conditions. Not only that, but the event helps unite “strong men and women with even stronger children.”

“It's not about how much you can lift at these meets, it's about making the kids feel like superstars,” Douglas told A Plus in an email. “It's their day. I was all about that.”

“Lindsay became my lil sis since day one,” he continued. “I knew she meant something to me, but after everything that has happened, there is no words to describe how I feel about her. She has pulled me out of rough spots just by thinking of her. That is a priceless gift. That is why I made it my duty to help her out in any way that I can.”

Since meeting, the two have become best friends and constantly visit each other, despite living in different states. In 2014, for instance, Douglas had to undergo bicep reattachment surgery in California, but just before the operation, Ratcliffe showed up at the hospital with her family to shower her friend with love.

“The best gift [was] just having [Lindsay] there with me,” the 29-year-old told ABC News.

That same year, Douglas also made a surprise visit of his own when he flew across the country to see Ratcliffe during a charity walk to raise money for progeria research.

Describing the reunion, Douglas said, “I will forever remember that moment and that feeling seeing her run to me and smile.”

Clearly, the bond shared between these two friends is unbreakable.

If you would like to help Lindsay Ratcliffe and her family by donating to progeria research, visit her fundraising page here.


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