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The Biggest Loser's Damien Gurganious Dies from Rare Disease

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Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Damien Gurganious, who appeared on the seventh season of The Biggest Loser, died Monday from a rare disease at the age of 38.

The Biggest Loser: Couples 2 competitor suffered from a sudden onset of a rare autoimmune disorder that caused bleeding in his brain, PEOPLE has confirmed.

“We were deeply saddened to hear of Damien Gurganious’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with Damien’s wife and daughter, Nicole and Giselle, as well as both of their families during this difficult time,” reads a statement released to PEOPLE on behalf of NBC, Shine America and The Biggest Loser producers.

Friends of the family have set up an online fundraiser at YouCaring.com to give Gurganious’s widow and daughter financial help “so they can focus on healing.”

“All of you who knew Damien can attest to his generous and loving spirit, his outgoing and gregarious personality, and his caring and compassionate nature,” the site says. “Damien always desired to bring out the best in those around him by offering encouragement, support and love, often couched in his own hilarious and sage adages.”

The post adds: “He was a pillar of his family, an amazing son, brother, cousin and uncle. He was an incredible husband and father to his 2-year old daughter, Giselle. He was an inspiration and mentor to so many. His love for his family and friends was immense.”

Gurganious is remembered by fans for competing alongside his wife on the NBC reality weight-loss competition in 2009.

“I was so happy I had a man who wanted to marry me,” Nicole told PEOPLE in 2009 of her husband, whom she endearingly called “the man that I love.”

Reporting by CYNTHIA WANG