A year after accidental invite, grandma and teen share Thanksgiving again

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/ Source: Today
By Rheana Murray

In one Arizona city, an accidental text message has led to a beautiful friendship.

Last year, Wanda Dench texted a Thanksgiving dinner invitation to a young man she didn't know, mistakenly thinking she was messaging her grandson. Surprisingly, the stranger responded: He said he didn't know Dench, but would come to dinner if the invite was still on the table. He did, and the pair became fast friends.

This year, they did it all again. Jamal Hinton, 18, joined Dench and her family at her home last week in Mesa, Arizona, for their second Thanksgiving together, and the start of what appears to be a new tradition.

"We kind of hit it off last year and we kept in touch," Hinton told TODAY. "She's very friendly."

He said he had a great time and brought his girlfriend to meet his "new grandma," along with a homemade pumpkin pie.

Dench told CNN she was thrilled to see him again.

"My husband and I were really happy he came," she said. "It was more low-key and quiet. We reminisced and talked about last year, how it was such a whirlwind. I learned a lot about the internet I never knew."

Last year, their story went viral after Hinton shared screenshots of their text message conversation online. When he jokingly asked if he could still come to dinner, Dench responded in the best way possible: "Of course you can. That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone."

And since the pair hit it off last year, Dench decided to invite him again this year.

"I reached out to him about a month before and said, 'Thanksgiving is at my house again; I'd really love it if you would come,'" Dench told CNN. "He has family that's close by, and I understood if he couldn't. But he did spend half of Thanksgiving with them and the other half with us."

Hinton told TODAY that he and Dench had kept in touch the past year over text messages. Hinton, who graduated from high school this year, wants to go to college and law school and become a sports agent, and Dench offers him career advice when she can.

They're both thrilled by all the positive attention their friendship has gotten.

"I love it," Hinton said. "I love how people are coming together and seeing the good in this story, and how much the world loves it. It's great vibes."