The CMA-nominated singer raised a record amount at his Miles & Music for Kids charity ride – and made it a family affair

By Eileen Finan
Updated November 02, 2015 11:00 PM
Credit: John Shearer/Getty

Sure Dierks Bentley would love his kids to see him take home a trophy at this week’s CMA Awards, but it’s what Dad did Sunday night that he wants them to take to heart.

The singer, who is nominated for CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, held his 10th annual Miles & Music for Kids charity motorcycle ride and concert on Sunday, raising $636,479 for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt – a record amount for the Nashville event.

“I get a lot of questions like, ‘Is this the year you’ll win a CMA?’ ‘Don’t you want to win?’ And of course I want to win. I’d give the craziest, greatest acceptance speech of all time. I’d lose my head, I’d go crazy on stage, I’d be so happy,” Bentley tells PEOPLE. “But something about this event puts it in perspective. During the whole ride, I just think about how blessed I am.”

Three of his blessings, of course, are his kids Evie, 7, (who was born the night before Bentley’s third Miles & Music) Jordan, 4½, and Knox, 2, all of whom were by his side as he greeted families of Vanderbilt patients. Later the three danced (and played with glow sticks!) from the wings as dad took the stage.

“It important to try to instill in them the importance of doing good,” says the singer, who had raised $3 million for the hospital prior to Sunday’s tally. “They see me on the road a lot and see that I make a living and then some, but I think they take pride in my doing this. They can see how music can be helpful and change lives.”

Before the show, which also featured performances by Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell, Bentley, toting Knox in his arms, mingled with fans, like Dalton Waggoner, an 11-year-old with a congenital heart defect and a rare disorder called ectodermal dysplasia who has known Bentley since the very first Miles & Music.

“This is just Dierks wanting to give back to this community,” says Dalton’s mom, Susan. “And he wants his kids to see, yes, daddy’s the star, but there is a bigger picture to what he’s doing.”

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At one point Bentley called daughter Evie over to meet a fan of his who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.

“Evie is starting to realize there are people who are sick beyond what she may think of as sick and she’s starting to ask those bigger questions – we’ll talk about cancer and what’s chemotherapy and she’s starting to think about mortality, really,” says Bentley, who adds that he’s thinking of taking her with him soon to visit – and sing to – hospital patients. “These are important things for her to see. Probably more important than watching me win a CMA Award.”