x
Breaking News
More () »

Viral grandma and surrogate grandson spend sixth Thanksgiving together

"It’s amazing, I mean it’s fun and each year it gets more fun," Wanda Dench said of the tradition they're carrying on.

MESA, Ariz. — Taking the internet by storm, and warming hearts across America since 2016.

Valley grandma Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton, who she mistakenly texted and invited over for Thanksgiving years ago, are celebrating their sixth year gathering around the table to eat some turkey together.  

"It’s amazing, I mean it’s fun and each year it gets more fun," Dench said of the tradition they're carrying on.

The story swept the nation years back and continues to make headlines. 

Jamal Hinton is now 21 but was 17 when his story first went viral. 

RELATED: Two in Arizona form Thanksgiving tradition after 2016 mistaken text

"I was a senior in high school at the time," Hinton explained.

He got a text from a random lady, who we now know is Wanda, inviting him over for Thanksgiving. She thought she was texting her grandson.

After a picture exchange, Jamal knew it wasn't his grandma but wrote "can I still get a plate tho?"

Wanda welcomed him into her home and a tradition was born. It's something they both call a miracle – not a mistake. 

"Oh gosh not a mistake whatsoever, I believe there are no accidents in this life," Dench explained.

"100 percent miracle, I couldn’t have said it better than her," Jamal reiterated. 

After their story took off, so did their social media following. But in year six they said they don't do it for the fame. They spend Thanksgiving together because they're family now. 

"Do you guys talk all the time or is it only on Thanksgiving?" Team 12's Jess Winters asked. 

"We talk all the time," Wanda exclaimed.

"It’s only on Thanksgiving," Jamal joked. "I'm just kidding haha!"

"We go to dinner, and went to dinner all the time when my husband was alive," she added.

Wanda’s husband Lonnie died of COVID-related complications. On holidays, she saves an empty seat just for him.

RELATED: Mesa woman who went viral for 2016 Thanksgiving celebration holds first one without husband

"He’ll always have a chair at our table for the rest of our lives," she said.

So will Jamal.  

"She's saved in my phone as grandma Wanda," he said. 

"He's my surrogate grandson," Wanda added.

RELATED: 'It’s that face-to-face connection where we see our commonality': Valley rabbi hosts Thanksgiving for refugees, asylum seekers

Up to Speed 

Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12 News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.