A teenager was accidentally invited to a grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner. Six years later, he’s still going back

Wanda Dench’s 2016 text about Thanksgiving dinner at her home in Mesa, Arizona, was intended for her grandson.

But she messaged the wrong number, and Jamal Hinton – then a student at Desert Vista high school – responded instead.

“You not my grandma,” he wrote back then. “Can I still get a plate tho?”

“Of course you can,” Dench replied warmly. “That’s what grandma’s do … feed every one.”

The text exchange ignited a fast friendship between Dench and Hinton, who have now made it a tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving together each year. With the holiday fast approaching, Hinton took to social media to share the invite “Grandma Wanda” sent him for 2021’s festivities – the sixth Thanksgiving dinner they’ll share.

Dench asked him, his girlfriend Mikaela and his family to join her on 25 November “to share good food and great conversation”. She signed her text, “your friend always”.

In a series of replies, Hinton eagerly accepted and nailed down the logistics. “We are all set for year 6!” he tweeted on Sunday.

The duo’s heartwarming story has gone viral as a much-needed reminder that goodness, generosity and connection are still essential to humanity. They’ve been the focus of online celebrity, but they’re also there for each other in real life when the going gets tough.

After Dench’s husband Lonnie died from Covid-19 last year, Hinton supported her. In an especially touching gesture, he assembled a care package that included recordings of people from around the world who wanted to send Dench a message of condolence.

In July 2020, Hinton filmed a video with Dench, where she talked about the importance of mask wearing. “Do what you can, not just for yourself but for all your loved ones as well,” she said.

During last Thanksgiving’s celebration – the first since Dench lost her husband – Hinton shared a picture of them holding a framed photo of Lonnie.

“This Thanksgiving along with all the holidays coming up aren’t going to be the same as past ones but we will make the best of it,” Hinton wrote on Instagram last year. “Rest In Peace to Lonnie and everyone else we lost this year.

“We will miss you greatly. Thank you for being in our lives.”