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Authentic Rebel Speaker Series

Heather Shtuka

Heather Shtuka, an ordinary individual embracing roles as a daughter, wife, friend, and mother of three, led a life filled with typical experiences—school, sports, friendships, scraped knees, first kisses, heartbreaks, adventures, a career, a wedding, and three unremarkable yet profoundly touching childbirths. Her life, though imperfect, was a creation of her own. Everything changed on February 17, 2018, when she received the heart-wrenching news that her eldest and only son, Ryan, was missing in Sun Peaks, B.C. Just two months prior, she had bid him farewell as he ventured to work a seasonal position at the ski resort, never anticipating that it would be their final goodbye.

Leveraging her extensive background as a Guest Service Manager in a major airline, Heather utilized her skills in training and leadership to establish a command center, rallying thousands of volunteers in the quest to find her son. Through various social media platforms, she amplified awareness for Ryan, drawing together a community of over 33,000 members seeking information.

In the aftermath of her son's disappearance, Heather emerged as a fervent advocate for missing persons. Collaborating with three remarkable women, she co-founded a non-profit dedicated to supporting families of missing individuals. The mission of The Free Bird Project is to equip these families with resources, skills, and compassionate support, empowering them to plan and conduct their searches.

Armed with a degree in public relations from MacEwan University, Heather channels her writing skills to raise awareness for those who are still awaiting the return of their loved ones. Learn more about her at

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Image by Luke Chesser

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