A teen accidentally invited to Thanksgiving at “grandma’s” house is set to celebrate his sixth year with the family, in what is now one of the internet’s longest-running traditions.
Jamal Hinton went viral in 2016 after getting a text from a random number, inviting him to a holiday dinner.
When Hinton, 17 at the time, probed as to who the sender was, he was informed it was his grandmother.
However after a few selfies were exchanged, it was established that Wanda Dench wasn’t related to Hinton. But after he asked if he could “still get a plate,” she welcomed him with open arms.
“Of course you can. That’s what grandma’s do… feed every one,” she told the high school senior. It later emerged she had been trying to message her grandson, Randall Burgoyne.
Fast-forward the next few years, and Thanksgiving at the Dench’s house has become a tradition for Hinton, from Phoenix, who’s set to spend his sixth year with the family, based in Mesa.
The internet fell in love with the unlikely friendship struck up between the pair, and have followed their story each year.
Hinton has updated followers every year with photos of their annual get-together. In 2018 he posted a montage of photos of the pair, captioned “2016, 2017…… 2018.”
As well as the holidays, it was reported the pair would meet up for dinners and barbecues with their other halves as their friendship blossomed, according to The New York Times.
“We are all set for year 6!” he posted to Twitter on Sunday, which has been liked more than 500,000 times.
But this year will be different from previous years, after Lonnie, Dench’s husband, passed away after contracting coronavirus last year.
Alongside a text exchange confirming arrangements, Hinton shared a snap of himself with Wanda and Lonnie, who died on April 5 2020, as well as his girlfriend, Mikaela Grubbs.
Hinton, who usually shares smiling snaps from their Thanksgiving dinners, found himself sharing the tragic news.
“As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it… he passed away Sunday morning.
“But Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that. Also for those asking Wanda is not sick,” he posted.
Dench and Hinton did still get together last year, but as for most Americans grappling with COVID, and with the absence of Lonnie, it was a very different Thanksgiving.
Holding up a photograph of her beloved Lonnie, Hinton shared a snap of the group last year, saying: “Thank you @wandadench for such an amazing celebration! You are such a blessing to this world. We miss you Lonnie.”
With this year on track to go ahead, the internet has responded with an outpouring of love and support for the tradition we all fell in love with.
Bill Pluto commented: “Consistent Wholesomeness…”
DLew wrote: “One of the best twitter traditions but still RIP to Lonnie.”
Hate Quinn commented: “Wholesome content I’m looking forward to every single year…”
Shaōlin Shawty reckoned: “A thanksgiving tradition now.”
While Chazzyn added: “This is literally one of the most beautiful holiday stories.”
Newsweek reached out to Hinton for comment.