FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 7, 2013) -- The annual Fort Rucker Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Christmas Tree Ornament Contest will soon have parents vacuuming up glitter, breakfast cereal and tinsel off of every surface of the house, but the payoff of their child's creation hanging on the post Christmas tree may make it all worthwhile.

The contest is free and open to youth ages 3 to 11 years old, and prizes include trophies and gift baskets. Children can turn in their ornaments to the Fort Rucker Youth Center, Soldier Service Center, child development center or parent central services now through Nov. 27. There are no material restrictions or themes this year.

"This provides a special opportunity for kids to be creative and let their imaginations go to magical places as they create a special ornament to adorn the post Christmas tree," said Janice Erdlitz, DFMWR marketing director. "Parents also find this to be a very special moment -- to see their child's creative sparkle and to take their child to the tree for them to be able to point and say, 'I did that.' It provides a proud moment for child and parent. We're committed to providing these special moments for our Families."

Every year an assortment of ornaments are made from a range of materials, including felt, pinecones, paper, milk cartons, paper tubes and popsicle sticks, and DFMWR said that the only restriction is the ornaments must be handmade by the child.

"We love to see the kids' creativity," she said. "We hope our ornament contest has become one of the many special Family traditions here at Fort Rucker, and we wish everyone has the opportunity to view all the ornaments made by our military youth."

The holiday spirit can sometimes be overshadowed by stressful plans or financial issues, but Erdlitz said that she thinks that the contest is a fun start to the holiday season.

"From making a homemade ornament to stringing popcorn for the tree, it's a wonderful time to start or carry on Family traditions," she said. "By providing fun engaging opportunities, like the ornament contest, is just one more way we reach out and encourage Families to spend quality time together.

"Hopefully, when mom or dad look over at the kitchen table and see their precious child building a gingerbread house out of popsicle sticks or crafting an ornament, they can push away all the stress and embrace the joy of creativity with their child," she added.

All the ornaments will be on display Dec. 5 when DFMWR officially lights the post Christmas tree and kicks off the holiday season.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony is one of the best feel-good events all year for the marketing director. She said Soldiers cherishing the time they have with their Families should be the most important thing about this time of year.

"These are the type of events that really put things into perspective. No matter what trials we are all going through, it's nice to get together and enjoy the festivities of Christmas," she said.

Parents are asked to label their child's entry with the child's name and age, and the guardian's name and contract information.