Bender was chosen Miss Minnesota 1992 at the age of 22. She competed at the 1993 Miss America Pageant and was selected as a talent winner for her performance on the fiddle. Bender became one of the most traveled Miss Minnesota in the pageant's history, performing a self-esteem program thousands of elementary school students during her year as Miss Minnesota.
Bender holds a certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University and a degree in Broadcasting from St. Cloud State University. She began her career as an intern at KTTC-TV in Rochester in 1990 and was hired there as a weekend weather anchor.
Following her year as Miss Minnesota 1992, Bender spent one year as a missionary for Merge Ministries in Reynosa, Mexico where she assisted churches along the border in building youth programs and facilitated mission trips for churches.
Bender returned to television in 1994, working for WAOW-TV in Wasau, Wisconsin. She was then hired at KMSP-TV in Minneapolis as a weekend weather anchor and reporter. One year later, she was hired at KSTP-TV where she worked until 2003 as meteorologist, weekend morning show host, and reporter.
Bender remains active in the Twin Cities as a freelance meteorologist and reporter, currently working for KARE-TV in Minneapolis. She also travels as an inspirational speaker, presenting talks on faith and a spirit-filled life. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and children.