Grandma and Teen She Accidentally Invited to Thanksgiving Keep Tradition Going for 7th Year

"The cameras and the fame can stop tomorrow and nothing is changing between us," Jamal Hinton said of his unexpected bond with Arizona grandma Wanda Dench

Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton are still carrying on their unlikely Thanksgiving tradition, seven years in.

The two pals first met in November 2016, when Dench sent her 24-year-old grandson a text inviting him over for Thanksgiving dinner. Unbeknownst to her, though, her grandson had switched his phone number — and Hinton, then 17, got her message instead.

After some initial confusion, and the strangers sent selfies to each other that confirmed the mix-up. But when Hinton asked if he could still come over for dinner, Dench, now 65, texted back, "Of course you can. That's what grandmas do … feed everyone."

The two ended up forming an unlikely friendship and their story, when shared online, quickly became a viral tale.

Last year, Hinton, now 23, announced he and Dench were working with Netflix on a film about their heartwarming holiday story.

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Most importantly, neither has let a Thanksgiving pass without continuing their annual tradition, Hinton documenting each holiday gathering at Dench's Arizona home on his social-media accounts.

On Tuesday, Hinton shared a picture on Instagram of him and Dench, snapped as the two stood outside a Cheesecake Factory restaurant.

"To answer all your questions, yes Thanksgiving year 7 is planned out!" he wrote in the caption, which included a turkey and black heart emoji.

"See you guys Thursday!" Hinton concluded.

The two also appeared in a taped segment on the Today show, Wednesday, where they both discussed the impact their bond has had on their lives.

"He's literally changed my life and my point of view on young generations about being open to friendships when you think you have nothing in common with somebody," noted Dench. "But when you just sit and talk to them? Oh my gosh ... "

"I honestly don't know where I would be sometimes," Hinton said. "It's amazing to have her as a friend and as my family. We always talk about — I told her, 'The cameras and the fame can stop tomorrow and nothing is changing between us.' "

"Absolutely," Dench added. "He's in my heart for life."

The two don't just talk on Thanksgiving, either. They're in constant contact throughout the year, having dinners and catching up on the phone.

Jamal Hinton (R) and Wanda Dench. Jamal Hinton/Twitter

Hinton took Dench to get her first tattoo, and was there with his girlfriend Mikaela when Dench's husband Lonnie died in April 2020 after a battle with COVID-19.

"I heard some wrestling at my front door and I opened it up and Jamal and Mikaela were dropping off a bunch of food and gifts and stuff," Dench recalled to Today.

"Whatever what I'm doing, she's a part of it, no matter what it is," Hinton said.

Next year, Thanksgiving will look a little different, as Dench is retiring and planning on moving a few hours away. But Hinton stressed he plans on doing the drive to be with her again.

And until then, they'll keep texting — even if that isn't Dench's strength. "He is big on texting me. But I'm always like, 'Just call me,' " she joked.

"We're going to work on your texting," Hinton told her.

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