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On Monday, May 6, a fearless few became the first in history to make a rope descent of the world’s most famous skyscraper, The Empire State Building. This incredible feat — the first of its kind — is a proud collaboration between the Empire State Realty Trust and Outward Bound.  

The Big Rappel, and the Empire State Building itself, is a symbol of what can be accomplished when determined people come together to do the seemingly impossible. The funds raised from this event will go toward providing transformational learning opportunities to young people in New York City and across the globe through Outward Bound. Participants’ total donations so far exceed $3 million. 

Jared Leto kicked off The Big Rappel on Monday morning, a descent which spans nearly 900 feet from the building’s iconic spire down to the 30th floor. 

“Recently, I climbed up the fin of the Empire State Building to announce Thirty Seconds to Mars’ world tour and now as the tour begins, I’m excited to head the opposite direction and rappel down to shine a light on the incredible work of Outward Bound.” said Jared Leto. “I’ve always admired Outward Bound and how they inspire people around the globe to transform their lives through adventure, challenge, experience, and discovery.” 

Globally, Outward Bound seeks to change lives through challenge and discovery, by encouraging students to push the limits of what they thought they could do. The Big Rappel is a one-of-a-kind example of this ethos of embracing challenges and seeking out unique opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. 

“The same spirit of challenge, adventure and support that is guiding our rappelers today is alive and well in our city’s public schools, thanks to the transformative work that NYC Outward Bound is doing to change the trajectory for thousands of students each year,” said Gifford Miller, Chair of NYC Outward Bound Schools’ Board of Directors.

One of the youngest rappelers, Jennifer Lopez, is a 2018 graduate of WHEELS, a NYC Outward Bound public school in Washington Heights. Jenni speaks fondly of her high school experience, remembering the tight-knit community at WHEELS and the opportunity to attend a challenging and life-changing 14-day backpacking and whitewater canoeing trip at North Carolina Outward Bound School. 

“Outward Bound has provided me with a lot of firsts — from my first time whitewater rafting, to becoming the first in my family to go to college. Because of Outward Bound, I’m always welcoming the next challenge in my life, including The Big Rappel,” said Lopez.  

Yesterday was surreal. I had to keep the Outward Bound motto of ‘taking a leap of faith’ in my heart as I was stepping off the top of the Empire State Building. Now I feel like I can do anything!

Jennifer Lopez

NYC Outward Bound Schools alumna & Big Rappel participant

Click on the photo below to enlarge and scroll through the full gallery:

NYC Outward Bound Schools was founded 36 years ago by a group of individuals determined to bring the Outward Bound ethos into New York City’s public school classrooms through equitable, immersive, and joyful learning experiences. Today, this is achieved through a student-centered model that integrates social, emotional, and academic development. NYC Outward Bound Schools’ helps students graduate with a solid postsecondary plan, prepared to thrive in college, career, and life. 

“The Big Rappel is a brilliant example of how collaboration and support can help us achieve more than we thought possible,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, CEO of NYC Outward Bound Schools. “We are so grateful to our partners at The Empire State Realty Trust, Outward Bound International, The Outward Bound Trust, and Outward Bound USA, and thrilled to have such an inspiring event take place in our city.” 

Ginger Naylor, CEO of Outward Bound USA shared, “Outward Bound is excited to make history as part of this epic rappel event at the Empire State Building. After years of planning, we join our event partners to raise significant funding to support our much-needed experiential educational programs around the world. This collaborative event merges Outward Bound’s commitment to transformative outdoor experiences and community building, with the opportunity to raise funds to make Outward Bound possible for more students in the US and across the globe. We are inspired by these bold individuals who chose to rappel yesterday on behalf of our students, staff, and the global Outward Bound community.” 

Empire State Building logo
Empire State Realty Trust logo
Outward Bound International logo
The Outward Bound trust logo
Outward Bound logo
NYC Outward Bound Schools logo

Press & Media

Good Morning America

Watch Good Morning America correspondent Gio Benitez rappel down the Empire State Building and discuss why he chose to support Outward Bound.

This Morning

Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice, Trustee of Outward Bound in the UK, gave her first ever live TV interview with the UK’s This Morning to report on The Big Rappel and her special connection to Outward Bound.

Time Out New York

See epic drone footage of actor and musician Jared Leto’s descent of the Empire State Building in this exciting video.

Social Media Highlights

Search #TheBigRappel across all platforms for more coverage from Monday, May 6.

@mickmicknyc For the First Time EVER!!! People are rappelling from the @Empire State Building 😱🔥 #thebigrappel #bigrapple #esb #empirestatebuilding #esbvip #nyc #fyp #skyscrapper ♬ Hunchback X Star Wars full version - Wolfe

The Big Rappel is a true symbol of what Outward Bound stands for — supporting people to discover and develop their potential through challenging experiences.

You can help students right here in NYC realize their own ambitions through real-world learning experiences, outdoor programming and stronger school communities by supporting our work!

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