PHOENIX, Ariz. (WIAT) — In 2016, Wanda Dench sent a text message to someone she thought was her grandson about his Thanksgiving plans. In reality, Dench had accidentally texted Jamal Hinton, who was 17 at the time.
What started off as a text to the wrong number has become a tradition six years running.
Hinton received the message while sitting in his high school class, reported sister station WXIN, and jokingly asked if he could come along anyway. “I said, ‘Sure you can.’ That’s what grandmas do—they feed everybody,” Dench told NBC affiliate KPNX at the time.
After Hinton posted the text message on Twitter, the story went viral and a holiday tradition was born. This week, Hinton confirmed that he and Dench were preparing to spend their sixth Thanksgiving together.
Last year, both Dench and her husband, Lonnie, were diagnosed with COVID-19. While Dench recovered, her husband died due to complications from pneumonia and the virus. Dench still invited Hinton over for Thanksgiving in 2020, conceding that the year had been difficult but adding that it “was really important to me” to continue the accidental tradition.
A photo of Lonnie Dench was placed at the table with a lit candle, WXIN reported.