Ryan Shtuka’s mother asks residents to light candle for third-anniversary vigil | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Ryan Shtuka’s mother asks residents to light candle for third-anniversary vigil

Photos of Ryan Shtuka during previous holiday seasons were shared in a video posted by his mother.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Heather Warren Shtuka

The mother of a man who vanished three years ago at Sun Peaks is asking residents to honour Ryan Shtuka’s legacy this year by lighting a candle in their homes.

Feb. 17 marks the third year since Ryan, 20, from Beaumont, Alta. mysteriously vanished while walking home from a party at Sun Peaks. He was working at the resort at the time.

Heather Shtuka and his family will be honouring his memory at Sun Peaks but asks that residents stay home during the pandemic and light a candle for him instead at 7 p.m., Feb. 17.

Since his disappearance, thousands of residents across the country have joined the MISSING: RYAN SHTUKA Facebook group. His story has spurred a documentary, been featured in a podcast and created a non-profit for those with missing loved ones called the Free Bird Project.

The group was originally started as a way to remember Ryan, Heather said, and over time it evolved.

READ MORE: New missing persons podcast begins with Ryan Shtuka

“When we started, you’re so very raw and heart-stricken and full of grief... and we had no idea what we were doing. We started the Facebook (group) as a way to keep people up to date because we were so far away from home,” she said.

“As more people joined, it took on a whole new life and whole new direction.... What do families do when all official channels go home? Because you never think that they do… we had such a network of people that were ready to step in and help us… and what that got us thinking was how do you create this legacy for Ryan as well as find a purpose that you’ve now become so entrenched in… how do you help other families going through this?”

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Wikimedia Commons and B.C. RCMP

On her way to Sun Peaks, she described it like "Groundhog Day," taking her back to the night when Ryan was first reported missing.

"You feel brittle, my heart is heavy, it’s a pit in the stomach… we’ll never move on, we’ll move forward,” Heather said.

Ryan’s legacy is important to Heather, who said there’s a lack of resources and support for families going through similar circumstances.

For the vigil, she asks that residents take the time to appreciate each other, and “just give your loved ones a little extra love or a huge.”

To read more Ryan stories, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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