Most Clevelanders know Gabriella Kreuz as the in-game host for the Cleveland Indians, lighting up Progressive Field with her exuberant antics on the Jumbotron. Brimming with fun-loving spirit and boundless energy, it’s little wonder that she’s proven a hit with fans. Off-camera, though, Kreuz devotes those same talents to making the Northeast Ohio community a safer place.
Gabriella KreuzIn 2014, she created “Love Doesn’t Shove,” a nonprofit dedicated to educating local students about the dangers of toxic relationships and dating violence. Moved to speak out after a traumatic personal experience, Kreuz began by selling orange wristbands on the John Carroll University campus. Now, that mission has grown into a speaking tour of sorts, taking Kreuz into area high-school and college classrooms to share her story firsthand.
“People are so engaged on this topic,” Kreuz says. “I think it’s because it relates to them. Everybody has relationships in some capacity—not even romantic ones, but with a family member, too.”
Her upbeat quirkiness sidesteps any discomfort felt by her teenage audiences, allowing Kreuz to spark meaningful conversations on this sensitive subject. Scenarios range from the unintended drama of liking the wrong Instagram post all the way to the horrors of physical abuse. For Kreuz, forging an authentic connection with the students is key.
“I’m transparent about the fact that I don’t come from a ‘Leave It To Beaver’ family,” she says. “I try to explain to the students that environment really plays a role. That’s why we can’t always say that everybody knows what a healthy relationship looks like. Actually, no, not everybody knows that.”
It resonates so well because it’s unmistakably her story. A heartbreaking one, of a young romance that turned controlling and abusive, leaving Kreuz confused and grappling for answers.
“My ex-boyfriend and I dated for almost three years and it just got progressively worse, spiraling from emotional manipulation into more physically abusive behavior on his end,” she explains. “I really thought that I deserved it because it was my fault—because he would say it was my fault. I was in a very confusing place that I didn’t understand.”
Kreuz says she didn't understand that she was being abused "until a rock bottom situation when he physically assaulted me at school and somebody else called the police. He threw me on the bed and was shaking me and choking me on and off and just saying crazy things.”
Campus security intervened and police reports were filed. Meanwhile, Kreuz’s family and friends begged her to seek help. “I decided to go to this anonymous support group at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center,” she says. “It was so healing. That was the first time that it clicked for me that his behavior was not my fault.”
Kreuz learned so much that she returned to school determined to share her knowledge and experience with others. And, thus, “Love Doesn’t Shove” was born.
Kreuz at a speaking engagementEven with 45 speaking engagements in 2018 and more planned this year, the positive reception from students still surprises her. “I was so worried about going to [all-male] St. Ignatius High School the first time because how are they going to relate to me?” Kreuz admits. “I say right off the bat that this presentation doesn’t generalize all men. Abuse can go both ways. It’s a topic that transcends gender.”
Kreuz was pleasantly surprised and now considers St. Ignatius "one of the most fun schools" she has visited. "They’re respectful and always bring their ‘A’ game," she shares.
Gabriella Kreuz might have built her local celebrity as a sports host, but she’s adding an entirely different fanbase among local youth moved by her story of escaping abuse, seeking help, and regaining hope. In fact, she just graced the January 2019 cover of Cleveland Magazine as one of our city’s Most Interesting People—but no matter how high Kreuz’s star rises, she’ll always have time for “Love Doesn’t Shove.”
“It’s just a real passion of mine, and I don’t think it will ever leave me because it has the potential to help people,” she says. “It was my personal experience that inspired ‘Love Doesn’t Shove,’ but it’s definitely not just about me anymore.”
Schools, organizations, or sports teams interested in learning more about Gabriella Kreuz and her “Love Doesn’t Shove” presentations should contact [email protected].