SUN PEAKS, B.C. — It's been nearly nine months since Ryan Shtuka was last seen leaving a house party in Sun Peaks.
After that, no one has seen or heard from him, but Ryan's parents Heather and Scott haven't given up the search. Heather has returned to Sun Peaks for the weekend, when more than a dozen volunteers are expected to once again scour the area for any trace of Ryan.
The family was ostensibly living in the resort town during the summer, but this weekend searchers are expecting to once again brave the snow.
"We're in the village right now and I'm looking out in the parking lot of the Grand Hotel, and I can just see it piled up," Heather says. "I look out my window and there is quite a bit of snow (on the ground). It feels like when we came, probably towards March, April — that amount of snow.
I think with the snow on the ground that may hamper us a bit because it's hard to see anything. I knew this would be something that could happen with November, with the snow happening, but... Scott and I made that decision that at this point in time we can't not come up and have a presence up here every single month."
Even if there's no searching being conducted due to weather conditions, Heather says her and Scott feel more connected to Ryan when they're in Sun Peaks.
"I don't know if it absolves guilt of not being able to find him, not doing enough, but it just makes us feel like we're here and we haven't given up, and we're not giving up until we can bring him home."
This trip is one of the hardest for Heather and Scott so far. Back when Ryan was reported missing on Feb. 17, the couple came to search through the piles of snow, knowing their son could be out there. Once the snow started melting, hope was renewed that a more visible landscape would at least lead to some clues.
But now, with the snow falling again, it's a harsh reminder that a difficult terrain is waiting to greet searchers Saturday morning.
"That's heartbreaking to say, too. As his mother, it boggles my mind that I actually have to say that we aren't looking for anything intact — we're looking for pieces, shoes, clothing, bones. I can't believe that I have to say that. It is going to be difficult searching and we knew that. We know that at this point in time, when the snow's coming, we're not going to do anything that's going to be effective, we just need to be here."
Some billboards have now been put up on the road to Sun Peaks, showing Ryan's face and information in hopes of alerting newcomers and seasonal residents of Sun Peaks to his case. Despite the amount of time Ryan has been missing, Heather says she's blown away by how many people continue to come up every time Heather or Scott are in town.
"I don't even know how to express my gratitude. I'm sad every day. I wake up sad. And I go to bed sad. Every moment of every day is clouded by that sadness," Heather says. "(But) I don't have to try so hard — people are standing behind him. That gives me strength. I can't give up, he matters too much to me and he deserves to come home."
If you're interested in helping search in Sun Peaks this weekend, go here to the Missing: Ryan Shtuka Facebook page.
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