They met for the first time in 2016 when she accidentally texted him, thinking he is one of her grandkids.
Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday of gratitude and spending time with your loved ones. It gives us the opportunity to create beautiful memories with our family and friends who have been a constant support in our lives. However, this holiday has been extra special for Phoenix-based Jamal Hinton and "Thanksgiving Grandma" Wanda Dench whose lives intertwined over an accidental text message in 2016.
As we've previously reported, Dench unintentionally texted Hinton in 2016, informing him that Thanksgiving dinner was at her house on November 24 at 3 p.m. When the then-17-year-old boy inquired who'd sent him the message, Dench answered, "Your grandma," with an elderly woman emoji. Hinton responded by requesting a picture to verify that the number belonged to his grandma. Once it became clear it was a case of mistaken identity, he shared a photo of his own face and a text pointing out that she was not his grandmother.
However, he asked, "Can I still get a plate tho?" and Dench replied, "Of course, you can. That's what grandmas do... feed everyone." They met for the first time in Mesa, Arizona, and had a Thanksgiving meal together. Since then people have been following the duo continuing this adorable Thanksgiving tradition over the past six years.
On November 22 this year, Hinton uploaded a photo of himself standing beside Dench to confirm that the two are continuing their viral ritual this year as well. He wrote in the caption, "To answer all your questions, yes Thanksgiving year 7 is planned out! See you guys Thursday!" The post gathered over 60,000 likes and several hundred comments from people appreciating the pair of friends for their commitment to this heartwarming tradition.
One person commented, "This is the best holiday story ever. I'm back for it every year." Another added, "You know what even if things are not so great in the world right now I'm glad this really wholesome tradition is still going!"
Even in the midst of the health crisis in 2020, the two devised a pandemic-friendly way to celebrate the holiday. However, Thanksgiving that year was a bittersweet affair for them since Dench's husband, Lonnie, died earlier that spring as a result of COVID-19 complications. Dench and her husband were both diagnosed with COVID-19 about the same time, but the virus caused Lonnie to get pneumonia. Hinton turned to Twitter shortly after hearing the news to raise awareness and support. After Lonnie passed away, Hinton posted on social media: "Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that."
A week later, Hinton tweeted a video of himself eating lunch with the couple, captioning it, "We miss you, Lonnie." Dench has stated that she believes fate intervened when she sent the unintentional text messages years ago, reports TODAY. She said, "Jamal taught me that age made absolutely no difference. I love all of my grandkids and kids, but we all are different generations, and we all reminiscence about different things."
"But when Jamal came along, my husband and I and him and his girlfriend, we would go out to dinner throughout the year together and we would just lose all track of time," she said. Dench shared that one time they all were sitting in a restaurant talking for hours and she "couldn't believe we were there that long."
"That's when it dawned on me that there doesn't have to be a generation gap to have friendships. So now I look at a lot of young people in a different light than I used to and I make it a point to talk and get to know them," she added. "He's changed my life a lot, I know that."