Three years after her son Ryan Shtuka went missing, Heather Shtuka said the pain has just begun to lessen.
“It’s gradual, it’s not like this aha moment,” she said. “Ryan is still the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed. .It’s not that I miss him less, talk about him less, that I don’t look at his pictures every single day…but I feel maybe less brittle. I feel like the edges aren’t quite as sharp as they were when this first happened.”
Ryan, the son of Heather and Scott Shtuka, disappeared after a night out with friends on Feb. 17, 2018 and he, or any clues, have yet to be found despite extensive searches and an ongoing police investigation.
In an email Kamloops RCMP told SPIN they still receive and follow up on tips and review the case but still have no answer as to what happened.
It’s left his family and friends in limbo without answers and with search options dwindling by the day. It’s a situation Heather said she wouldn’t wish on anyone, but those who do experience the unimaginable pain may find some relief in her new projects.
he first, the Free Bird Project, was launched alongside others who have missing family members as a way to gather and provide information on searching and support.
Recently the group became a non-profit organization which is responsible to a board and any funds raised will be used to directly help other nonprofits or families searching for a loved one.
The goal is to create a website that can act as a free resource for anyone who needs information on searching for a missing person anywhere in Canada, providing details ranging from which search and rescue teams are available, to waivers for volunteer searchers, to advice on media relations.
“It will have links to organizations, civilian services like the avalanche and disaster dogs, you know all of these ones that are volunteers that are outside provincial, official sources that people can look to,” Heather said. “What we want to be able to do is have something by province…so if it’s the middle of the night or if you as a family didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to us as an organization you could certainly look through the website and find the information that you need.”
In addition to Free Bird, Heather has made significant progress on her goal of writing a book about her experience.