PHOENIX - Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to gather, and in Arizona, one particular story has grabbed the hearts of millions, every year.
For those involved in what is known as the "Thanksgiving mix-up," they call it a blessing.
A mix-up that went viral
It all began in 2016, when Jamal Hinton, who was 17 at the time, received a random text message from a woman.
"I was just in class, and I got a random group chat text, so I texted back, and I found a new grandma," said Hinton, back in 2016.
The text began by stating what time the Thanksgiving dinner would be, and once Hinton and the woman exchanged selfies, they knew it was a mix-up. Instead of un-inviting Hinton, the woman, identified as Wanda Dench, still extended the invitation.
"I was, like, 'wow, she is really nice, I should really go'," said Hinton at the time. "She seems really sweet. Just a nice lady, I guess."
"My husband and I are friendly people. We just wrapped our arms around him and told him to come on in. Never occurred to me -- he told me later he was nervous about coming to my house, and I said 'what's there to be nervous about?' but he didn't know me either. He didn't know if we were some crazy white people is what he said," Dench said, recounting her first encounter with Hinton.
Tradition remains strong
Thanksgiving 2022 marks the seventh time Dench and Hinton gathered with their families. Through the years, the Denches and the Hintons have kept up the tradition, and on Nov. 23, 2022, they were making pumpkin pies ahead of the annual feast.
While the traditional remains strong, not everyone is here now to celebrate Thanksgiving. In April 2020, we reported that Dench's husband, Lonne, passed away while fighting COVID-19.
Dench may have lost her husband, but a tradition that came from a text mix-up is still going strong. Dench said she knows her husband is happy they have kept the tradition alive.
"My husband is very, very proud. He adored [Hinton] and his girlfriend, Mikayla, which I do too," said Dench. "He just knew that [Hinton] was special. An angel on Earth.
The holiday mix-up may soon be turned into a movie, as well. In 2021, we reported that Dench and Hinton's story caught the attention of producers at Netflix. There is no word on when the movie might be released on the streaming platform, and both Dench and Hinton couldn't say much about the project.