12-Year-Old Girl With Rare Disease Has Unlikely Best Friend: A 330-Pound Powerlifter Nicknamed 'The Beast'

"Lindsay became my lil sis since day one," the former Marine said.

At six feet tall and 330 pounds, 29-year-old motivational speaker and powerlifter David Douglas looks exactly like what his nickname, "The Beast," suggests. The former Marine is a three-time Camp Pendleton athlete of the year and can squat over 900 pounds, bench 600, and deadlift 770. 

But if there's one thing bigger than Douglas' physique, it's his heart.

That's because Douglas puts his strength in the service of something even stronger than what is required to move piles of iron: the courage of a little girl named Lindsay Ratcliffe who suffers from progeria: a rare genetic disorder that causes children to appear to age rapidly. 

Douglas shared some of Lindsay's story in an email. "At age 4 1/2 Lindsay was diagnosed with progeria. Progeria ages humans 8-10 times faster than normal, giving an average lifespan of 13 years old. Today Lindsay is 12 years old. You would never know that she was fighting something so hard," Douglas wrote, "because she is always smiling or giving some type of sarcastic answer to make you laugh."

He met Lindsay, who he calls his "little sis," at Relentless, a powerlifting event sponsored by HopeKids to benefit children with rare diseases. 

Douglas replied to our request for an interview with the story in his own words.

"Back in early 2013, I was going into my 7th year in the Marine Corps, stationed out in California. I was going through so adversities in my personal life. I remember being down on my luck. Shortly after, I was contacted by another Marine Corps veteran and police officer, Tommy Westhoff, who happened to be the promoter for Relentless Detroit at the time. He asked me if I had heard anything about Relentless before and began telling me all about it. Then he blessed me with the opportunity with the chance to be a lifter at the upcoming event in November of that year in Detroit. I couldn't have said yes faster. I felt like that would give me a purpose and not just going out and lifting weights. He made it a point to (tell) me that it's not about how much you can lift at these meets, it's about making the kids feel like superstars. It's their day. I was all about that. Months leading up to this event i was fundraising and Tommy contacted me again and told me that a family and their little girl who they were sponsoring that year wanted to meet me. I couldn't stop smiling and told him to let them know I can't wait to meet them." 

That little girl was Lindsay and her parents, Kristy and Joey. The experience left him changed.

"Lindsay became my lil sis since day one," Douglas writes. "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. We tried hard to get her on the Ellen show so that we could spread her story of this rare condition to the world, but fell short, but still truly hoping to get on there. One of Lindsay's favorite shows."

When FOX 32 Chicago reposted this picture on Facebook, people got a chance to see the beauty of The Beast.

The viral photo was taken, Douglas explained in a comment, "after HopeKids Minnesota Relentless where a group of powerlifters fund raise to help kids with life threatening illnesses and their families." Describing the legend photoshopped onto the shirt, Douglas says, "I got a picture from a friend that took a picture of us and i felt very strongly about it so i wanted to get the point across on how i felt about it and her. 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."

The two have remained close since then, with Douglas flying across the country to surprise Lindsay in Michigan for a charity walk.

He described the reunion as one of the best moments in his life.

"I will forever remember that moment and that feeling seeing her run to me and smile."

To help Lindsay and her family, you can donate to their fundraising page here.

You can help Relentless here and HopeKids here.

For more from David Douglas, check him out on Facebook and Instagram.