Teen who met grandma from accidental text shares Thanksgiving plans after COVID-19 loss

KTRK logo
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Grandma who invited wrong teen to Thanksgiving shares 4th holiday with him
You may remember when an Arizona grandmother's texts accidentally reached the phone of a teen she didn't know back in 2016. That sparked a thanksgiving friendship between the unlikely pair -- and a yearly tradition that's still going strong.

MESA, Arizona -- An Arizona grandmother and a teenager (now grown-up) have carried on a Thanksgiving tradition for years -- all because of a text that was sent to the wrong person.

It all started when Wanda Dench, now 63, thought she was texting her own grandson about Thanksgiving dinner plans but accidentally texted now 21-year-old Jamal Hinton instead.

He asked for a photo to find out if it was his own grandmother behind the text. The picture came in of a woman with blonde hair and glasses -- not Hinton's grandma.

"[You're] not my grandma," Hinton said with a laughing emoji. "Can I still get a plate tho [sic]?"

"Of course you can," Dench replied. "That's what grandma's [sic] do... feed everyone [cake emoji]"

The wrong messages went viral on social media, and the pair decided to meet in real life. They had so much fun together that Hinton has joined Dench's family for Thanksgiving every year since.

But sadly, Lonnie Dench, Wanda's husband of 43 years, died from complications due to COVID-19 in April. Speaking to "Good Morning America" Thursday, Hinton called Lonnie a "good friend" who was "very supportive" of his accidental friendship with Wanda.

Two families who have been sharing Thanksgiving dinner together after an accidental text message in 2016, are revealing their holiday plans amid the pandemic.

In July, Hinton posted a video on YouTube documenting a dinner he and his girlfriend, Mikaela, shared with Dench.

"It's been kind of trying since Lon passed away back on April 5 from COVID-19," Dench says in the video, adding that she, too, tested positive for the virus. "I want to say thank you to all of the people that sent their blessings and their condolences and their well wishes for me."

This year marks the pair's fifth Thanksgiving together.

Hinton told "GMA" that he is quarantining for two weeks so he can spend an in-person, socially-distanced holiday with Dench.

"It's become a huge part of our lives," Hinton said. "It's great being part of something so loving and having people around the world to talk to us and being touched by our story."

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.

"Good Morning America" contributed to this report.