Losing a parent at a young age can have a reverberating effect throughout a child’s life, something 11-year-old Isabella Pieri knows all too well. As does her school bus driver Tracey Dean.

So when Isabella worked up the courage to ask Dean to help her with her hair, the kindhearted driver did not hesitate for a second.

Isabella’s mom passed two years ago, succumbing to a rare illness she battled for years. While dad Philip Pieri stepped up to take on as much as possible when it came to caring for his daughter, little things remained that he simply couldn’t do. Isabella’s hair was one of them.

Isabella’s mom passed before the little girl had learned to braid her own hair and, as much as her dad tried, he could not manage to get the hang of it.

“I originally just gave her a crew cut because I didn’t know how, and it was all tangled and I couldn’t get it out for anything,” Philip Pieri told KSL TV. After that drastic move, Isabella took charge of her own morning routine, especially since her dad leaves for work early. But the everyday brush and ponytail was nowhere near what other classmates sported to school.

One day, Isabella noticed school bus driver Tracey Dean fixing one of her classmate’s hair and worked up the courage to ask for help. Ever since then, Dean has been braiding Isabella’s hair every morning – a routine that has given the 11-year-old renewed courage and happiness, something that her dad and teachers have noticed. “It makes me feel like she’s a mom pretty much to me,” Isabella told KSL TV.

Dean has her own story of facing loss. Having battled breast cancer seven years ago, the thing that terrified her most during her illness was the prospect of not being there to take her of her own children. Years later, it still remains her source of inspiration to step up and help the kids she drives whenever she can. “You treat them like your own kids, you know,” Dean told KSL TV.