By Kevin Kinkead

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Andrew Wenger is going to Africa.

READ MORE: Daniel Moore, Hero Pilot In Drexel Hill Medical Helicopter Crash, Released From Philadelphia Hospital

The Union winger was one of the many live auction participants at the Philadelphia Union Foundation’s third annual “Cocktails and Cleats” gala on Wednesday night.

He won the high bid on a trip to Namibia, where he’ll enjoy a wildlife safari in a different hemisphere with several of his closest friends and/or teammates.

If it seems odd for a player to participate in the auction, it shouldn’t be. Proceeds benefit the team’s charitable arm.

Philadelphia Union's 'Cocktails and Cleats' Gala. (credit: Kevin Kinkead/CBS 3)

Philadelphia Union’s ‘Cocktails and Cleats’ Gala. (credit: Kevin Kinkead/CBS 3)

“What I think about is a guy who ‘gets’ it,” said foundation executive director Rick Jacobs. “I think the Philadelphia Union and the foundation is a collection of people that ‘get’ it. Andrew, and his teammates, and our ownership, and our front office, they ‘get’ it. They understand what it is to be able to do good things for people who don’t have what they have. Andrew is one of those guys.”

The scene at Vie restaurant was a “who’s who” of the local soccer community.

There were players, coaches, front office members, donors, and business partners.

Philadelphia Union's 'Cocktails and Cleats' Gala. (credit: Kevin Kinkead/CBS 3)

Philadelphia Union’s ‘Cocktails and Cleats’ Gala. (credit: Kevin Kinkead/CBS 3)

Guests mingled at the bar and bid on silent auction items, which included everything from a signed Lionel Messi Barcelona jersey to autographed Union gear. There was also non-sports related memorabilia to go along with donations from the Flyers, Eagles, Phillies, and Sixers.

Maybe the most difficult part of the evening was getting guests to actually sit down for dinner, which was accomplished by a staff member manually turning the lights up and down inside the venue.

READ MORE: Ex-Bordentown Police Chief Frank Nucera, Jr. Granted Delay On Reporting To Prison

Folks got the message and eventually found their seats for the main program, highlighted by the live auction and presentation of assorted awards. This year’s “Building Block” award was given to restaurateur Marc Vetri and his business partner Jeff Benjamin, creators of the “Vetri Foundation for Children”, which works with the Union’s foundation.

“It went well,” explained foundation chairman Mike Curry. “These things are like, to use an athletic metaphor, they’re almost like championships. The first one is easy to win. Defending it is really tough, right? This is similar, because we did such a great job last year, and coming here for a second year, everybody had high expectations. Just judging from the smiling faces and participation in the live and silent auctions, I think we nailed it.”

“Cocktails and Cleats” is the pinnacle of the foundation’s yearly activity, which ultimately serves to raise money for charitable programs in the Chester area.

Not dissimilar from the on-field product at PPL Park, this is a still-burgeoning project with obvious upside.

Foundation business is improving at a rapid pace, with net proceeds nearly tripling in value from 2013 into 2014.

Philadelphia Union's 'Cocktails and Cleats' Gala. (credit: Kevin Kinkead/CBS 3)

Philadelphia Union’s ‘Cocktails and Cleats’ Gala. (credit: Kevin Kinkead/CBS 3)

“In 2013, we were at $45,000 dollars in net proceeds for the foundation,” Jacobs explained. “I can tell you that last year we were at net proceeds of $125,000 dollars. As it rolls into this year, we’re in excess of that, we’re in excess of $125,000 net proceeds. When all of the money comes in, we’ll be able to report that. The good news is that the work of the region, and for Chester, allows us to participate with partners like Philabundance, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Soccer for Success, and anyone else who wants to (get involved) with the work.”

The early days featured small-scale community work, such as the playground build that took place during the week of the 2012 MLS All-Star Game.

That evolved into more community work, such as food drives, and fundraising through various avenues, like the annual “River Cup” charity match between the Sons of Ben and the Union front office.

Overall, the foundation has more stability and focus than it did a few years ago.

MORE NEWS: CBS3 Pet Project: Tips On Caring For Dogs With Arthritis

“We’re much more secure financially,” added Curry. “A lot of our behind-the-scenes administration, our formal budgets, and new partnerships (have improved). What that does is it allows us to bring in experts that can help us fulfill our mission ad satisfy the needs of the community that we serve. That’s probably the two biggest things, is just being a better run organization, not that we were poorly run, but we just tightened up the way we do things. And the other thing is these partnerships, which I think are going to be essential for our growth looking forward.”