Hundreds of people are expected to kickoff 2018 by braving the cold waters of North Beach, all to raise awareness about a disease affecting millions.

It's the fourth annual Polar Bear Plunge, and they are preparing for crowds on New Years Day.

For the past three years, hundreds have lined up on North Beach to take on the cold water. In doing so, they aim to raise awareness and funds for ALS research.

"There's not much you can do to help someone with it other than just support them in their regular life and support the research that will someday hopefully find a cure," Organizer Alissa Mejia said.

ALS is a disease that causes the muscles in the body get weaker, leading to the loss of movement and in other cases, the ability to speak.

"It's kind of easy to forget that people have this because they're not out doing things," Mejia said. "It's a quiet disease."

Mejia is the organizer behind the yearly event whose own experience with ALS has driven her to find a cure.

"So my dad is living with ALS. He was diagnosed in 2011," Mejia said. "I was motivated to start something to help raise awareness because there is nothing we can really do."

The Polar Plunge is open to anyone but all donations made go toward research, which Mejia believes will lead to a solution.

"The answer that I see is through research, so we're trying to support an organization that is the largest research lab completely devoted to ALS in the world," Mejia said.

The event has already raised close to $40,000 in its first three years.

For those feeling nervous about participating because of the freezing waters, Mejia said to remember one thing.

"You're going to be awake and alive, and you're going to know it," Mejia said. "To do it in honor or memory of a cause, that means a lot and helps other people. Gives it extra meaning."

Stay connected with 3News for the latest news, sports, and weather. Download the KIII-TV 3News app now.

Have an idea for a story? Send news tips to, and visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!