For outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Whatcom County is a national treasure—and the region’s mountains, waters, and trails should be accessible to all. This mentality is the ethos behind the AIROW Project (Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation of Whatcom County), a local nonprofit working to provide adaptive recreation opportunities and gear for individuals with disabilities. 

AIROW was founded by April Katz, a passionate disability advocate who also provides support and services through her business Adaptive Life Coaches. Upon moving to Bellingham, she couldn’t help but notice a lack of available adaptive gear for outdoor sports.

 So what exactly is adaptive gear? In terms of biking, a child who struggles with balance might need a recumbent bike, which has two wheels in the front and one in the back. Hand cycles are powered by arm strength and can be used by those who are paralyzed from the waist down, whereas someone with vision impairment could ride with the help of a tandem bike and a guide.

Photo courtesy of The AIROW Project

In response to the unavailability of such equipment, Katz was inspired to team up with a crew of behavioral and physical therapists to host an adaptive kayaking event. It was, unsurprisingly, a resounding success. 

“We had 60, 65 people showing up from different parts of Whatcom County,” Katz says. “That’s where I was like, now I know it’s a need and people want it. And so, January of 2020 is when I made an official nonprofit.”

AIROW did not begin offering regular programming until March 2022 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the setback, 2022 still proved to be a big year: AIROW began offering their “Riding is for Everyone” programming in two local Bellingham schools, held adaptive community biking events with Transition Bike Company & Outpost, and even hosted adaptive bike camps in the summer. 

Katz notes that AIROW’s events aren’t just about providing adaptive gear—they’re about building community. “The feedback and the way that [the kids] just lit up, and their smile, it just says everything,” Katz says. “That’s why all my coaches and volunteers return.”

 While AIROW’s 2022 programming was centered around bikes, the organization plans to offer even more activities in 2023 and beyond.

Photo courtesy of The AIROW Project

 “We’re really excited, because we’ve just been [focusing on] bikes to build a foundation for our nonprofit,” she says. “But now, our ultimate goal is to be in every outdoor recreation.” 

For starters, AIROW has partnered with the YMCA to offer adaptive swim lessons and water safety classes. In the coming years, Katz also hopes to acquire adaptive gear for skiing at Mount Baker, as well as to find an indoor space to host activities like Zumba classes. 

As the organization grows, the AIROW team aims to continue raising awareness about the importance of inclusive gear. They’ve already received support through organizations like the Whatcom Mountain Biking Coalition, and Katz encourages community members to get involved however possible. This could mean volunteering, donating, or even attending or hosting a pint night fundraiser at a local business. After all, any contribution goes towards making Whatcom County a more equitable place to live and play.

 “Inclusion is huge,” Katz says. “When you announce you’re doing a community ride, or a bike shop does a community ride, I love that we’re finally saying that all are welcome. It’s that word ‘all’ that I think the community gets really excited about.” Bellingham, 360.788.3099,