For several months in 2008, Angelina Giocomo, 12, suffered excruciating pain from a toothache that resulted in many sleepless nights, for both her and her family.
"I used to wake up crying because it was so bad," she said.
Her stepmother, Angel Flowers Giocomo, exhausted almost every imaginable option trying to find a dentist that would treat Angelina, who was without dental coverage.
"I was calling all kinds of places," Giocomo said. "I was even thinking about going to the state and applying for some type of medical."
Angelina's biological mother actually had her and her two sisters, Chrystal, 10, and Carolina, 8, on what was Illinois' KidCare, a less comprehensive subsidized health care plan than the current All Kids plan and one that they couldn't use because of a breach in communication that prevented them from accessing necessary information.
It was a nurse at Scott Elementary School in Melrose Park that advised Giocomo to take Angelina to the Children's Clinic in Oak Park. And in April 2008, she did.
Standing behind its motto, which is to treat every child regardless of the ability to pay, the clinic extracted the decayed adult tooth that caused Angelina so much pain. It was then discovered she would need a root canal on another tooth, which the clinic performed at a later date.
"She needed to be strapped down!" Chrystal said with a laugh.
The clinic also performed dental work on Chrystal and Carolina and administered immunization shots that all three girls were behind on, all by June of last year.
The girls now go to the clinic every six months for dental and medical check-ups. What's more, they actually enjoy these visits, largely because of the friendly and personable approach to patient care.
"We treat the children as a whole," said Elizabeth Lippitt, Children's Clinic executive director.
This model of care is based around actually forging relationships with the families and children.
"They take an interest in them [children] and they're very patient with them ... they remember them," Giocomo said. "They don't just treat their teeth."
In addition to the medical and dental care, the clinic has helped foster a new appetite for literature that all three girls currently share, especially for Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series of adventure books.
"Before, we didn't like to read," Angelina said. "They give us books every time we come here. That's why we like reading now."
Mainly through local fundraisers, and some reimbursement from Illinois' All Kids state-provided insurance plan, the Children's Clinic is able to treat children like the Giocomo girls who don't have private insurance, subsidized care or other coverage.
The last two years have been financially difficult for the Giocomo family. In 2007, the girls' father, Eddy, lost his construction job and Angel Giocomo lost her position as a dental assistant.
Originally from Melrose Park, the family now resides in Steger, Ill., and has no problem making the 40-mile drive north to the clinic.
The girls have become acquainted with their new home - even the loud freight train in the backyard - and remain active and healthy, thanks in large part to the Children's Clinic.
Simply put, they're "awesome," according to Giocomo.