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Making par, not war, to help Ukraine

Jeff Fitzhugh, the chief executive of Linksoul and a Huntington Beach resident, at the Huntington Beach Club on Friday.
(James Carbone)
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Shooting below par — the average — is desirable for any golfer, though more attainable for some than others.

Huntington Beach’s Jeff Fitzhugh is an avid golfer himself. He lives a short walk away from the Huntington Club (formerly known as SeaCliff Country Club).

In terms of his life, though, Fitzhugh wants to give an above-average effort to anything he pursues. And he isn’t letting cancer slow him down.

Fitzhugh, 59, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in May 2020. But after four rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in November of that year, he said his cancer is in deep remission. He still goes in for treatment at City of Hope Newport Beach every other week, but he can now focus his energy on one of his favorite things — helping other people.

Fitzhugh is the chief executive of golf lifestyle brand Linksoul and sunglasses company RAEN Optics. And Linksoul, together with co-founders Geoff Cunningham and John Ashworth, has started a fundraising drive to benefit people in Ukraine.

Linksoul started selling custom T-shirts with its “Make Par Not War” slogan and the blue and yellow colors of the Ukraine flag on March 10. All of the proceeds from the $40 T-shirts, available on the Linksoul website, go to nonprofit organization Sunflower of Peace.

Sunflower of Peace provides first-aid backpacks and supplies for paramedics and doctors in Ukraine.

“We were absolutely emphatic that 100% of the proceeds are going toward this humanitarian effort,” Fitzhugh said. “This has got nothing to do with us trying to build our brand or grow. We have people that do web development that work with us who are in Ukraine, so this means a lot to us.”

So far, the T-shirts have raised more than $60,000 for Sunflowers of Peace. The company’s stated goal is $100,000, but Fitzhugh said he’s thinking more in the neighborhood of $1 million.

Jeff Fitzhugh, the CEO of Linksoul and a Huntington Beach resident, organized a fundraiser to support the people of Ukraine.
(James Carbone)

He likes thinking big. Fitzhugh is also part of the “MM Squad,” City of Hope multiple myeloma patients who met at the Fashion Island location and have become exceptionally close. They support each other through their treatments.

Their oncologist, Dr. Amrita Krishnan, gave the group its name. Krishnan said Fitzhugh also organized the Quest for a Cure charity golf tournament last October, raising nearly $100,000 to fund groundbreaking multiple myeloma research at City of Hope Orange County.

“That’s always first and foremost in Jeff’s mind, how can I help?” Krishnan said. “He never thinks about himself or his disease. It’s always, how can I help someone else? He’s served on a personal level, he’s serving on a corporate level, and he’s doing it on a global level now with Ukraine. It’s pretty incredible.”

Fitzhugh and his wife, Susan, are the parents of two college-age children. He said he had one dark day after he was first diagnosed. He sat on the couch in front of the TV watching Game Show Network.

“I was just sitting in my sorrows,” he said. “That’s when I said, ‘That’s it. It’s time to get up and go kick butt.’”

He and Linksoul want to continue raising money for Ukraine. Earlier during the coronavirus pandemic, the company raised $225,000 through “Flatten the Curve” golf-related T-shirts for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

“I feel lucky that I’m in a position and have a platform that I’m able to hopefully help some people,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s a very cool T-shirt and [Sunflower of Peace] is an amazing organization, so hopefully we can get this thing to go viral and raise way more than $100,000.”

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