SUN PEAKS - It's been 22 days since Ryan Shtuka was last seen leaving a house party in Sun Peaks, and searchers continue to look for any signs they can.
Heather and Scott Shtuka, Ryan's parents, left their home in Beaumont, Alta. shortly after Ryan was reported missing, and have been staying in Sun Peaks, searching for their son ever since.
They're not going to stop any time soon.
On Wednesday morning, March 7, the Canadian Search and Disaster Dog Association set out in Sun Peaks to help. So far, nothing has been found that can lead them to Ryan, after searching the areas where Ryan "could have" and "should have" gone, according to Heather.
"What the search has just left us to know for sure is he’s probably not in those areas (that have been searched) and it leaves us to expand the search," Heather says.
Ryan left a party on Burfield Drive in the early morning hours of Feb. 17 and wasn't seen again. Heather says volunteer searchers and the rescue crews have searched the paths on his short route home.
Next up is where would he have gone?
"There is no manual for this," Heather says. "We learned everything day by day, painstakingly."
She says there is no evidence or proof that Ryan left the Sun Peaks area after the last time he was seen, and that they just have not found the right place to search yet.
The Missing Ryan Shtuka Facebook page has gained nearly 17,000 followers since its inception shortly after he went missing. Celebrity athletes like Carey Price and Mark McMorris have posted Shtuka's missing poster to their Instagram pages.
"I started off posting without anything in mind," Heather says. "All I wanted to do was make my son real for people. I didn’t want him to just be this 20-year-old out drinking and left a party and hasn’t been seen since. He’s more than that, he’s always been more than that."
She says it's easy to fall into darkness and negative thoughts in situations like this, but with the help from her home community in Beaumont, the Sun Peaks community, and communities in between, she says it's important to stay positive, adding that her son needs her to stay positive.
Heather and Scott aren't going to leave Sun Peaks until Ryan is found.
"We will put our lives on hold, our family is supportive of us," Heather says, pointing out her appreciation for her two teenage daughters who have also put their lives on hold. "That is the least we can do for our son, he deserves to be able to come home and be reunited with us, in whatever shape that takes."
Since search efforts began, Heather has suffered a ruptured achilles, which means she can't go out and do ground searches for the time being. Scott still gets up every morning, puts his snow gear on, and searches for his son, while Heather does everything she can do from the inside.
"My husband is an amazing man, he’s definitely a strong man, but he’s an emotional man who connects very well with his friends and family," she says. "I know it’s difficult for him... Scott is searching all day long. I know (not finding him) is frustrating for him."
This morning, March 10, volunteers are again needed to help with ground searches and can report to the Sun Peaks Fire Hall if they're able to help.
For next week, potential searchers can check in on the Missing Ryan Shtuka Facebook page to see where headquarters will be held that day.
Next weekend is Ryan's 21st birthday and Heather says they want to do something special to celebrate him, his love for his family, and his love for his friends.
The $5,000 reward previously offered for information leading to Shtuka's whereabouts has now been raised to $15,000. If you have any information, call Kamloops RCMP at 250-828-3000 or stay anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1 800-222-8477.
"We give our gratitude that people still believe, that people aren’t giving up hope," Heather says. "It will take a village to find Ryan... we're grateful for the village we have."
For more coverage on this case, go here.
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