NEW YORK -- They weren't ski poles. They were crutches.
But when Lindsey Vonn raised them in the air triumphantly Thursday evening, she got the same kind of cheers she might have gotten at the bottom of a mountain, after a victorious ski run. Even if this wasn't a ski run but a runway.
Vonn, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist who had to forgo the Sochi Games due to a bad knee injury, was clearly making the most of her time off the slopes as she joined some 20 other women at the Red Dress Collection, an annual event that has become the traditional kickoff to New York Fashion Week. It features celebrities from various fields strutting the runway to bring awareness to heart disease.
The first Red Dress show was held in 2001, at the beginning of the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute's campaign to reach out to women.
This year, there was a special emphasis on getting the word out to younger women, too, who might not yet be thinking about taking care of their hearts. And so a number of young celebrities walked the runway, including Bella Thorne, the 16-year-old actress best known from the Disney Channel series "Shake It Up." Though she was the youngest, Thorne was one of the most confident and relaxed of the evening's models, sauntering with aplomb atop her gold heels in a long Badgley Mischka number.
Thorne, who has experienced heart disease in her family, said before the show that she was excited and a little nervous, but also looked forward to "that feeling you get when you know what you're doing is making a difference."
Vonn, 29, wore a short Cynthia Rowley dress, the better to navigate those crutches. Fellow Olympian Sasha Cohen, the figure skater, also 29, wore a sleek Mark Bouwer gown. Food personality Giada De Laurentiis, 43, was elegant in Carolina Herrera. Actress Joan Van Ark, 70, wore a Mark Zunino ensemble. Rock singer Joan Jett, 55, wore a Catherine Malandrino pants outfit.
Victoria Justice, 20, best known for starring in the Nickelodeon TV series "Victorious," said it was her first experience on the runway (she got to wear Oscar de la Renta). Like many who participated, she has a personal connection to heart disease; her friend and stylist has suffered from it, and so she wanted to help bring awareness to fellow young women. "I'm young, but I know it's something you have to be on the lookout for," she said.
Actress AnnaSophia Robb, who ended the show in an Alice + Olivia strapless gown, is also only 20, but there's been heart disease in her family. And so she came, she said, "to be part of a community."
"It's important to be aware of your family's history, and to be cautious," she said. "I'm not worried now, but I know that I have to take this issue seriously."