News of Otsego County

Helios Care

Helios Care named as finalist for major award
Dan Ayers, CEO and President of Helios Care. (contributed)

Helios Care named as finalist for major award

By GREG KLEIN • Special to

Oneonta’s Helios Care is a top 25 finalist for a prestigious award for innovative palliative care.

The John A. Hartford Foundation Tipping Point Challenge, sponsored by the Center to Advance Palliative Care, is a “national competition to catalyze the spread of skills, ideas and solutions that will improve health care delivery for all people living with a serious illness,” according to its website.

“We are absolutely honored to be included with Mount Sinai and Indiana University and all the other prestigious groups,” said Helios CEO/President Dan Ayers. “I think we are the smallest group on the list by far. There is one from Kentucky. Obviously, they cover a rural area, but we are smaller.”

CHRISTMAN: Helios Recognizes National Volunteer Appreciation Week


Helios Recognizes National
Volunteer Appreciation Week

To the Editor:

Helios Care is celebrating and honoring the valuable and heartfelt commitment of our wonderful volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week.

Even when a person is dying, there can be a lot of living to do. Hospice makes it possible by bringing care, compassion, and hope to patients and families facing life-limiting illness. Volunteers are a vital part of this special care: 224 trained volunteers support our local communities during patients’ end-of-life journey and make the mission of Helios Care possible.

Whether a volunteer is serving at the bedside, honoring a veteran, assisting in the office, helping in the thrift shop, or assisting with events, they are the heart of our hospice. We would like to thank all of our volunteers for their unwavering support and generosity. This week and throughout the year, we honor and celebrate our outstanding volunteers.

Helios, Director of Community Outreach

Turkey Trot 5K Goes Virtual, Honors Late Founder John Hayen

Turkey Trot 5K Goes Virtual,

Honors Late Founder John Hayen

ONEONTA – Helios Care’s annual Turkey Trot 5K race will go virtual this Thanksgiving, with the 10-day run dedicated to the memory of founder John Hayen, who helped plan and support the event in the years before his passing earlier this month.

“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend John Hayen.  Many will miss him and his passionate spirit,” said Kelly McGraw, Helios Care’s Director of Access and Turkey Trot Event Director. “Dedicating the 2020 race to John will allow Helios Care to show our gratitude for the enthusiasm he brought to this event and his advocacy on behalf of hospice care.”

In 1st Month, 230 Give Foundation $175K

In 1st Month, 230

Give Foundation $175K

COOPERSTOWN – The one-month old Community Foundation for Otsego County has raised $175,000 in donations in its first four weeks of operation from 230 individuals so far.

In the last 10 days, the foundation’s COVID-19 Fund has also made five awards, and now has a total of 17 in review or completed. Completed awards include:

• HELIOS CARE – $5,000 to buy PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for staff to visit patient homes.

• CATHOLIC CHARITIES of Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie Counties -$5,000 to buy PPE and supplies for child-care providers in private homes.

• BASSETT MEDICAL CENTER – $7,500 to distribute gift cards for gas and food to employees who have been furloughed or had hours reduced due to clearing the facility for COVID-related use.

• FOX HOSPITAL – $3,000 for the same purposes as Bassett.

• COOPERSTOWN FOOD PANTRY – $3,000 to buy farmers’ market vouchers to give to families that use food pantries.

In another instance of community support, Alex’s World Bistro dedicated “Well Spent Wednesday” on April 29 to the fund, donated 15 percent the day’s receipts. The Bistro will reprise this in the near future.
In addition, the town boards of Worcester, Cherry Valley and Otsego have passed resolutions supporting the fund, as has the Cooperstown Village Board and Oneonta Common Council.
U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and Assembly John Salka, R-Brookfield, have also announced support for the fund.

Qualified nonprofit organizations may obtain applications from the foundation website,; donations are also accepted online at the website.

For news updates, check Contact the foundation at
Contributions are still being sought from individuals, companies, other local foundations and organizations. Online gifts have the most immediate impact and can be accepted at
Donations can also be sent to the Community Foundation of Otsego County, P.O. Box 55, Springfield Center, NY 13468.

1st Community Foundation Grant To Helios

1st Community Foundation

Grant Goes To Helios Care

ONEONTA – Just two weeks after going public, the Community Foundation for Otsego County has awarded its first grant: $5,000 to Helios Care for PPE – personal protective equipment.

The money came from the foundation’s newly established COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund.

“This award to Helios Care captures the goal of the fund to support first-line health care providers by supplying them with (PPE) they need to safely conduct home visits,” said foundation President Harry Levine. “The Community Foundation of Otsego County is honored to be able to award these funds to Helios Care.”

Additionally, the United Way of Delaware & Otsego Counties awarded $2,500 to Helios.

Helios Care sought the funds for staff to use in caring for palliative and hospice care clients.

“Helios Care providers are serving the most vulnerable members of our community during this national emergency,” said Helios CEO Dan Ayres in thanking the foundation.

Though Helios Care has received the first grant, the Community Foundation is reviewing several more applications from local nonprofits seeking help during the COVID-19 crisis.

Additional recipients are expected to be announced soon.

To apply for a grant or donate to the foundation, go to

Helios, OFO Top Recipients Of Community Foundation Of South Central NY Grants

Helios, OFO Top Recipients Of

Community Foundation Grants

ONEONTA – Nine community organizations, including Helios Care, Opportunities for Otsego and Catholic Charities, have received more than $65,000 in grants from the Community Foundation for South Central New York to help the fight against COVID-19.

“Typically, we support school districts, arts organizations and human services,” said Diane Brown, executive director. “But COVID-19 hit in the middle of our spring grant cycle, so we repurposed our funding.”

Helios To Open Conversation On Care In Time Of COVID-19

Helios To Open Conversation

On Care In Time Of COVID-19

Kelly McGraw

ONEONTA – Helios Care will offer “Start The Conversation: Thinking and Talking About Future Healthcare Decisions,” a virtual presentation, on Thursday, April 23, National Healthcare Decisions Day.

The online presentation will begin at 2 p.m. To register, click here

“During this challenging time, it becomes even more important to have the conversation to make sure you get the care you want if and when you need it,” said Kelly McGraw, Helios Care director of access.


Oneonta Christmas

Parade, Tree Lighting, More


HOLIDAY PARADE – 3 p.m. Celebrate the holidays on Main St. Line up at 3, parade at 4. Main St., Oneonta. Visit

TREE FESTIVAL – 3 – 7 p.m. View Christmas Trees beautifully decorated by area individuals, businesses. Production Center, Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-431-2080 or visit

TREE LIGHTING – 5:30 – 8 p.m. Celebrate the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Muller Plaza, Oneonta.

Run, You Turkeys!

Runners Work Up Appetite

At Annual Turkey Trot 5K

A brisk run on a cold morning is a good way to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner! 477 runners took to the streets for the annual Thanksgiving Day 5K Turkey Trot for Helios Care. Above, Carson Pashley, Austin Hitt, Christopher Mosconi, Noah Artis, Ron Reed, Emma Peeters, Kacie Hymers, Michael Hamilton, Andrew Stanton, Tristan Ethier Matthew Rubin, and Alanmichael Rubin take off from the finish line at the start of the race. At right, Daniel Butterman runs with his daughter Layla to the finish line for a time of 29:30. (Ian Austin/

Helios, Rustic Ridge Join Best Of The Best


Helios, Rustic Ridge

Join Best Of The Best

Honorees at the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s “Ignite the Fire of Entrepreneurial Spirit” banquet that ended a few minutes ago at The Otesaga are, from left, Helios Care’s board Chairman Connie Jastremski and President/CEO Dan Ayres, winners of the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Breakthrough Award; Laura and Rick Bennett, proprietors of Rustic Ridge Winery, Burlington, winners of the Key Bank Small Business Award; and NBT Insurance Agency Interns of the Year Jared Ciccarelli from SUNY Oneonta and Caitlyn Herlihy from Hartwick College.  At right are Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan and board Chair Al Rubin.   Some 250 attendees helped celebrate the honorees’ accomplishment.  Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, presented Assembly citations to the honorees; and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig delivered the closing remarks where, among other things, he urged Caitlyn and Jared to pursue their careers in Otsego County.  (Jim Kevlin/

Turkey Dinner For Senior Citizens


ANGEL TREE PROGRAM – Give the Gift of Christmas this holiday season. Adopt a family in need. Visit to learn how.

TURKEY DINNER – 5 – 6:30 p.m. Senior citizens are invited for delicious dinner sponsored by Lions Club, LEOs, CCS PTA. Take-out available. Cafeteria, Cooperstown High School. 607-547-2401.

Helios’ Dan Ayres, ‘Man With A Plan’



Click For Reservations To Nov. 21 Otesaga Banquet

Helios’ Dan Ayres,

‘Man With A Plan’

Hospice Successor Prepares

Long-Term Care For Future

President & CEO Dan Ayres on a casual Friday at Helios Care’s new offices on Oneonta’s River Street Extension, where six sites were consolidated. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – By 1995, Dan Ayres – “Dan, the man with a plan” – had been vice president/support operations for five years at Fanny Allen Hospital in Winooski, Vt., when the news broke:

The small community hospital was about to be merged into the much larger Mary Fletcher Hospital in adjacent Burlington, and there would only a single high-level job for the Fanny Allen’s half-dozen top executives.

Ayres, now CEO & vice president at Helios Care, the former Catskill Area Hospice & Palliative Care, was the youngest applicant.  He got the job of vice president/facilities services, overseeing the merger of the two hospitals into the Fletcher Allen Medical Center.

The other applicants, he said in a recent interview at Helios consolidated headquarter on the River Street Extension, talked about their experience and credentials. “I had a plan,” Ayres said.  “I had a complete binder – the organization structure, the first 90 days.”

His latest plan – the concept, new name and new logo for Catskill Hospice – was unveiled by the Helios board Tuesday, Oct. 8, before 100 people at a reception at the Southside Quality Inn.

That, plus a nomination by a family member whose father had benefit from Helios new approach – don’t take the patient to the hospital; bring quality care to the patient’s home – will be recognized at the Otsego County Chamber’s Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Breakthrough Business of the Year at the annual Small Business Banquet Thursday, Nov. 21, at The Otesaga.

“Instead of end of life, Helios is about maintaining quality of life,” said chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan.  “We have a pioneer right here in our neighborhood, which I think is fantastic.”

Helios “keeps people in their homes longer,” she continued. “They have access to medical services.  It keeps them out of emergency rooms.  It helps with overall cost – for the patients themselves as well as the organization.”

Helios board chairman Connie Jastremski, retired Bassett chief nursing officer and vice president/patient care services, said she and other board members were aware the term “hospice” had become a barrier to care.

“It isn’t really the end of life,” she said, noting patients were typically entering hospice with only 4-5 days to live. “It’s making your life better at the end.”

Plus, “Catskill” in the name didn’t accurately depict the service area, which includes the Cooperstown area, which is not in the Catskills.

A popular term in renamed hospices is “comfort care,” but the local board discovered it’s trademarked; the rights would have been expensive to buy.

“’Helios Care,’ I think, struck us at first as ‘what?’” Jastremski said.

The Helios Care board of director and their CEO unveil the new logo Oct. 10 in a reception at Quality Inn, Southside. From left are Reginald Knight, Connie Jastremski (board chair), CEO Dan Ayres, Jeffrey Woeppel, Linda Evanczyk, the organization’s founder; Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo (founder of hospice in the Oneonta area) and John Pontius. (Photo courtesy WZOZ)

“Hearing the back story” – reflected in the new logo – “is important,” she said. “Helios, the god of sun, bringing warmth and bright light into your patients’ lifes.  Around the sun are hearts, the people who are caring for them, for the love, caring and compassionate dignity we provide.”

Now, she said, it’s her mission to get doctors to understand the new emphasis, which has required adding personnel to increase the palliative care piece.

Jastremski’s last job at Bassett was in the Pain & Palliative Care Unit, “holding people’s hands and talking to them about relieving their symptoms.”  That’s the Helios goal, to treat patients early and at home, with either nurses or telemedicine.

“If it is end of life,” she said, “we’re already there.”

Since Ayres arrived back in the Otsego-Delaware region in November 2016, change had been systematic.  (See box, this page)

If the new model works for patients, it also works for hospitals, which federal reimbursement rates are now punishing if a patient isn’t fully treated and has to return two or three times, Jastremski said.

“Patients who readmit most frequently come to the emergency room with shortness of breath, heart problems, dementia,” she continued.  “If you can call someone on a 24-hour hotline, we can send a nurse out to see you, or do it by telemedicine.”

A year-long pilot project between then-Catskill Area Hospice and Leatherstocking Collaborative Health Partners, a Bassett affiliate, showed an 80 percent dip in acute-care treatment and a 35 percent cost savings.

“This is saving hospitals money,” she said.  “Nothing is worse than having hospitals have year after year of unprofitable years.”

Chamber To Honor Helios, Rustic Ridge At Annual Banquet


Chamber To Honor

Helios, Rustic Ridge

At Annual Banquet

COOPERSTOWN – Helios Care and Rustic Ridge Winery will be the honorees at the Otsego Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Banquet Thursday, Nov. 21, at The Otesaga, chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan announced a few minutes ago.

Helios Care, which recently announced the reinvention of Catskill Area Hospice to provide a wide range of services at home, will receive the Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield Breakthrough Business of the Year, celebrating innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

Rustic Ridge Winery, operated by Rick and Laura Bennett on the family farm int the Town of Burlington, will received the Key Bank 20th annual Small Business of the Year Award.

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