Wanda Dench, a 61-year-old grandmother from Mesa, Arizona, celebrated her third Thanksgiving in a row with 19-year-old Jamal Hinton of Pheonix, Arizona, on Thursday. Jamal is a random teen she mistakenly texted three years ago. Hinton shared photos of the traditional feast at Dench’s house on social media, along with photos from their previous Thanksgiving dinners.
“2016, 2017…2018 [heart emoji],” Hinton captioned a series of selfies from their three Thanksgiving reunions.
Their unlikely friendship began in November of 2016, when Dench tried to text her 24-year-old grandson an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at her house. He had recently changed his number, so Dench accidentally texted Hinton — then 17, People reported. After establishing with a few selfies that Dench had texted the wrong number, Hinton jokingly asked if he could still have a plate at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
“Of course you can… that’s what grandmas do; feed everyone,” Dench replied.
The high school senior shared screen-shots of the conversation on Twitter, screen captures which quickly went viral. When Thanksgiving arrived, Hinton shared an update — he did, in fact, join Dench and her family for the holiday dinner. Hinton and Dench have kept in touch ever since, and the two now reunite for Thanksgiving each year.
“I just clicked when I met him and first talked to him,” Dench shared with NBC News in 2016.
Dench and Hinton’s story touched hearts all across America, showing that there are no generational boundaries in true friendship.
“It was a reminder that there are still some good people left in this world,” Hinton told People regarding Dench’s kindness toward him when they first met.
Hinton’s girlfriend also attended the dinner — for the second year in a row — after hitting it off with Dench on Thanksgiving of 2017.
Dench and Hinton’s cross-generational friendship even spans beyond the November holiday, according to the New York Daily News. The two try to go out to dinner together every few months to catch up. Hinton also shared that Dench sent him a few gift cards for Christmas, and she reached out to him about his high school graduation.
“Gaining a new grandma, I thought maybe I’d gain one getting married, but as a friend, it’s great,” Hinton said.
The Dench family now considers Hinton as a beloved extended family member. They plan to continue their Thanksgiving dinner tradition in the future. Hinton even hopes to host the holiday party himself one day, “if [they] get [their] own place.”
“I would like to retire from doing the dinner and pass it onto the younger generation and I’ll come and visit,” Dench said of the idea.