World’s favorite tradition: Wanda and Jamal celebrate Thanksgiving together for year 7

They say you lose track of time when you’re having fun, and the more fun these two seem to have as the years add up.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:10 PM MST
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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It may be the world’s favorite Thanksgiving tradition: Wanda and Jamal are celebrating together, and this is year seven! They gained viral fame in 2016 when Wanda Dench thought she sent a text to her grandson about Thanksgiving dinner but accidentally sent it to the wrong number. Instead, she sent it to a teenager, Jamal Hinton, who showed up for the holiday dinner.

Their lives have changed so much since, with some big new changes on the horizon. They say you lose track of time when you’re having fun, and the more fun these two seem to have as the years add up.

“It’s going to be bad when I get 30!” said Jamal. “Wait till you get 65!” Wanda said, laughing. “We even had an adventure. We went to Atlanta, Georgia, at the beginning of the year and had a blast there. We were on a game show!”

The 2016 text mishap unexpectedly led to a tradition of them celebrating Thanksgiving together every single year since, with a friendship to boot. “I do know the first Thanksgiving he didn’t bring anything over,” Wanda said jokingly. “Wow! Throwing people under the bus, golly!” laughed Jamal.

They’re adding a new activity to the mix this year – baking pumpkin pie. “We thought we could bring pies to everybody’s Thanksgiving’s tomorrow,” Wanda said. “I don’t think I’m a good cook, but my husband says I was.”

Wanda’s husband, Lonnie, was a staple at Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2020 from COVID. On Thursday, they’ll all have dinner at Jamal’s girlfriend Mikaela’s family home, the last place Lonnie celebrated Thanksgiving with them.

Even though he’s gone, Lonnie’s still part of the changes in their lives this past year. “I got a tattoo. And this guy accompanied me because it was my first tattoo,” said Wanda. “It’s three shooting stars and they represent my husband, my mother, and my father who are all in Heaven right now.”

Jamal has grown up in front of our eyes from teenager to adult, adding a new title to his resume this year: coach. “5th grade, 6th grade basketball coach. I have some amazing kids on my team,” said Jamal.

“What’s is it like to be on the opposite side of that, when in this story you started as the kid?” asked reporter Briana Whitney. “It’s amazing. It’s something I never thought I would do,” said Jamal. “I always looked up to my coaches. It’s great to know there’s kids out there that I’m helping.”

And perhaps the biggest change: Wanda is moving a couple of hours north to Prescott, Arizona. “It’ll be bittersweet because I have wonderful memories in this house. All our Thanksgiving’s we’ve had here,” said Wanda.

Don’t worry, they already have an answer to your question. “We already have, I guess year eight planned out!” said Jamal. “Eight is going to be in my new house up in Prescott!” said Wanda. “It means I have a lot of driving on Thanksgiving next year!” said Jamal.

These two are always going the extra mile for each other because no matter differences in race, background, and generation, the only ingredient needed here is a whole lot of heart. “It definitely has made me realize how important friendship is,” said Wanda. “And maybe in the most unlikely of places,” said Whitney. “Yes,” Wanda and Jamal replied.