A bus driver for the Alpine School District in Utah made sure her little passenger got her hair braided in the morning after the girl lost her mother.

A couple of years ago, 11 year old Isabella Pieri’s mom died of a rare disease. The loss was the beginning of an incredibly difficult journey through grief, loneliness and sadness. But, a caring adult stepped in with a small gesture that ended up making a huge difference.

Isabella quickly learned independence after her mom died. Something, however, proved to be a little harder to do for herself–braiding her own hair.

She asked her dad, Phillip Pieri, to do it, but he worked long hours at a convenience store. He also found braiding hair was definitely not in his skill set. He only pulled Isabella’s hair, hurting her head and making her mad.

Her hair became so tangled that he cropped her hair in a crew cut. Eventually, it grew out and she resigned herself to just pulling it back into a ponytail.

Until something happened on the school bus that changed everything.

Tracy Dean, 47, drove the bus that took Isabella back and forth between school and home. One day, Isabella saw Dean braiding a girl’s hair.

Isabella shyly asked if Dean could braid hers.

From that point forward, Dean braided Isabella’s hair each morning.

Dean told ABC News:

I can tell she was struggling with her hair. We usually do two French braids first and once in a while she just wants one braid. I also taught her how to brush her hair. She’d get on the bus and she’d say, ‘I brushed my hair. Does it look good?'”

The driver would tell her, “I’ll say. You did awesome!”

Dean got a diagnosis of breast cancer a few years before. The thing that weighed the heaviest on her mind was who would take care of her kids. She knew her husband was more than capable. But he couldn’t braid hair. Dean felt that doing her girls’ hair was something that bonded them. It was just a mom thing to do.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Everyone in Isabella’s life, from her dad to her teachers have noticed how proud she is to have nice hair. Isabella says Dean is like a mother to her.

Even though no one can truly replace a mother, the small gestures from unanticipated sources can make someone feel like mom is there watching, guiding and loving.

Way to go Tracy! You’re an inspiration to us all!