03/21/2013 11:11 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Heart disease and stroke survivors join celebs in red at Heart Truth Fashion Show

TORONTO - Ladies in red strutted, shimmied and sauntered down the runway on Thursday in a special style showcase aimed at promoting awareness about heart health.

The Heart Truth Fashion Show made its return to World MasterCard Fashion Week with celebrity models taking a turn on the runway clad in crimson-coloured dresses. But this year's event was made particularly poignant by the inclusion of everyday women who have survived serious health scares.

Heart disease survivor Janet Parr and Heather Nutt-Christensen, who suffered a stroke at age 33, received a rousing welcome as they kicked off the evening's festivities with their confident catwalks.

The duo was followed by more than a dozen notable names from the worlds of sports and entertainment, many of whom stepped out of their comfort zones in support of the cause.

A pregnant Jamie Sale pumped up the crowd and playfully rubbed her belly as she stepped out in a lacy red number with a sweeping train by Farley Chatto as Alicia Keys's hit "Girl on Fire" blared through the speakers.

The champion pairs skater and Olympic gold medallist said the subject of heart disease strikes a deeply personal chord.

"I have had a great aunt pass away with heart disease, and my own father's having open heart surgery next month — and he's had a heart attack," Sale said in a backstage interview prior to the show.

"Obviously, a lot of women don't know it's one of the leading causes of death in women .... So I think this is bringing a lot of great awareness."

Olympic silver medallist and champion curler Cheryl Bernard donned a ruffle-front cocktail creation by Ross Mayer. Four-time Olympic medallist and hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser channelled old Hollywood glam with her floor-skimming number from Something Blue, and couldn't resist miming a stick-handling pose in front of the flashbulbs.

Actresses Lauren Holly and Sonja Smits, singer-songwriter Liona Boyd, "So You Think You Can Dance" choreographer Stacey Tookey and rock and blues singer Nanette Workman were among the other celebrity participants. But it was a trio of seniors who were the star attractions to close out the showcase.

Dubbed Models of Health for their embrace and promotion of healthy and active living, Margaret Abbott-Brown, 75, Claire MacDonnell, 83, and Gladys Wenger, 91, had the capacity crowd up on their feet and cheering as they took their catwalk turns.